By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


March 17, 2005

Shooter Jennings
"Put the O Back in Country"
Universal South

Waylon Jennings used to tell the story of pal Willie Nelson waking him up with a phone call at 4 a.m. to ask: "Ain't you glad nobody else on the radio sounds like us?"

Shooter (aka Waylon Albright) Jennings unfortunately doesn't have a voice as distinctive as his late, legendary dad's. But the son of Waylon and Jessi Colter has a feel for country, Southern rock and bluesy honky-tonk that would -- and did -- make the old man proud. The young'n has even sat in for Axl Rose with Guns N' Roses.

His debut CD -- introduced by George Jones -- proclaims its dissatisfaction with country radio ("it ain't country music that you've been listenin' to") and love of rockin' country from the top with the title song. "Put the O" wraps new music around Neil Young's "Are You Ready for the Country," which Waylon Sr. cut in 1976.

The road-trip story "4th of July" blends a Springsteen-Mellencamp vibe with chiming, Byrds-like guitars, while "Solid Country Gold" comes closest to his father's sound and sensibilities ("they can't see the country for all the (expletive) trees").

Elsewhere, Jennings mixes slide guitar and banjo in a Charlie Daniels-meets-Lynyrd Skynyrd account of being "Busted in Baylor Country" for pot; writes a love letter in the tender, acoustic "Sweet Savannah"; writes a lust letter in the gospel-tinged "Manifesto No. 3"; receives bad news in the soulful "The Letter"; gets homesick in Los Angeles for "Southern Comfort," the name of his parents' home in Nashville; and kicks out power chords in the shootout saga of "Daddy's Farm."

"Put the O Back in Country" is a bit uneven with all of its homages to Jennings' influences. But it also lets the world know that Shooter is loaded with talent.