Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This: Shooter Jennings Steps Out Of The Shadows

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Preview By Kevin M. Wilson

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The bus is loaded down with an eclectic mix of traveling music and more Coor’s Light than most bars are willing to keep in their beer coolers at any given time. And when Louisville.com arrives on the scene, the man of the hour is pacing back and forth talking to his gorgeous actress-girlfriend, Drea de Matteo, on a cell phone. Such is the crazy life of a second-generation outlaw.

 

The late, great Waylon Jennings (Shooter’s father) is remembered as a massively successful hell-raising country artist who, in his prime, operated outside the slick <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Nashville establishment of the 1970s. As such, many forget that Waylon was also once a rocker who, as a member of Buddy Holly’s band, should’ve been on the plane that crashed and killed Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper in 1959.

 

So, it is interesting that, like the elder Jennings, the trajectory of Shooter’s career also begins in rock & roll. Fleeing Nashville as a teenager, he settled in Los Angeles and set about making noise with his band Stargunn.

 

That hard-hitting ensemble was a favorite among the club crowd and attracted the attention of some of L.A.’s most notorious rabble-rousers, including the exiled members of Guns N’ Roses.

 

As Shooter recalls, “Duff [McKagan] used to come see us play all the time and before they got Scott [Weiland] to do the Velvet Revolver thing, they sort of asked if I wanted to ‘play Axl’ for some club dates. That was a blast!”

 

Though crazy collaborations became the norm, Shooter discerned that his true musical vocation was to be realized elsewhere, and he eventually retired Stargunn. Soon thereafter he recruited an outlaw band of his own, dubbed them the 357’s, and took aim at the present Nashville establishment.

 

Shooter admits that this is a scene in which he “really hasn’t mingled that much” but believes that there is a lot left to be desired.

 

In discussing what’s missing from so many of the modern country acts, Shooter points out that “you don’t have to pick cotton to be a good artist,” but people like Billy Joe Shaver, for example, who are connected with “hard luck, hard living, and hard times,” bring a certain soulfulness to their music that can’t be learned or faked.

 

Needless to say, Billy Joe Shavers are not abundant in Nashville these days.

 

For Shooter, authenticity is key. That’s exactly what’s delivered on all three of his studio records, including last year’s The Wolf. On that rambunctious offering, Shooter attacks with tracks that reflect a man simultaneously inspired by Led Zeppelin’s “The Rover” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty,” two of his all-time favorites.  

 

Seldom off the road and notoriously rowdy in concert, Shooter recently cracked a rib from rocking-out a little too hard on stage. This affliction was allegedly “cured” by taking big-ass naps, popping pain pills, consuming inordinate amounts of alcohol, and, of course, more touring. 

 

Given his name, perhaps the man of the hour is merely the victim of a self-fulfilling prophecy, but LDC can certainly attest to the fact that this trouble-making so-and-so is as much of a pistol as his pappy ever was.

 

See for yourself when Shooter Jennings and the 357s roll into Headliner’s Music Hall Wednesday April 3rd.

 

For more information visit www.headlinerslouisville.com.

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