Shooter Jennings

Presented/Guest
with Mike & The Moonpies
Date
Saturday, January 18, 2020
Time/Doors
Doors 8 | Show 9
Facebook Event
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Description

For nearly two decades, Shooter Jennings has defied expectations while constantly expanding the parameters of country, rock ‘n’ roll, and beyond. The scion of American music royalty, he has affirmed his own place in histories still to come as a truly limitless artist whose ambitious experimentation spans myriad genres and creative platforms, from releasing seven solo LPs, countless EPs, and founding his own label and multimedia outlet, Black Country Rock, to hosting his “Shooter Jennings’ Electric Rodeo” on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country channel, producing music by Jamey Johnson, Wanda Jackson, and his mom, Jessi Colter, and the creation of acclaimed BBS Door games (available via his own BCRGames.com).

Ever the outlaw, Jennings has now crafted what might well be his most truly idiosyncratic work thus far, SHOOTER. Produced by longtime friend and collaborator, Low Country Sound founder Dave Cobb, at the renowned RCA Studio A on Nashville’s Music Row, the album sees Jennings staking out a fairly straightforward goal: to simply make a great country record. It should be noted, Jennings’ last studio album was a genuinely visionary tribute to Giorgio Moroder so in some ways, making a straight up country record is as much of a left turn as anything else in his brilliantly mercurial career thus far. But with songs like “Fast Horses & Good Hideouts” or the raucous “I’m Wild & My Woman Is Crazy,” Jennings more than affirms his mission by returning to country’s original, if oft misplaced, mandate: singing songs about growing up and getting older, about going out and getting trashed. In short, making music for real people with real lives. With SHOOTER, Jennings truly puts his own mark on country music, living up to his extraordinary birthright with unparalleled passion, experience, and heart.

“I think that’s why I was so excited to do this now,” he says. “This record is almost a re-centering for me. I wanted to do something straight and simple. It was almost like recalibrating a firearm. Every once in a while you realize you’re shooting wild so you have to stop and recalibrate.”

Jennings’ decade-plus relationship with the GRAMMY® Award-winning Cobb extends all the way back to 2005 and his first trio of solo albums, a landmark series of records in which they tried to “stretch the boundaries of what was acceptable on a country record” by adding elements like electronics, psychedelic guitars, and Shooter’s distinctly modern point of view. SHOOTER – which marks their first full length effort together since 2010’s psychedelic metal concept album, BLACK RIBBONS – turns that experimental approach on its head by stripping the country sound bare to its bones to reveal the genre’s hot blood and hard muscle.

“I called Dave and said, Everyone is taking the adventurous route we took on my first records but nobody is making records like Hank Williams Jr.,” Jennings says. “Just classic good time honky tonk. I want to do that. I want to make a slammin’ country record. I want to make the best country record for right now. He said, ‘I’m in. Come down to Nashville and let’s record that record.’”

Indeed, Jennings had just recorded a complex concept album – as yet unreleased – touching on death and the seemingly abrupt changes in the world over past few years and was already set to reunite with Cobb to co-produce of Brandi Carlile’s critically hailed 2018 studio album, BY THE WAY, I FORGIVE YOU. Though raised in Nashville, Jennings has spent the past two decades residing in Los Angeles and admits to having little taste for contemporary Music City’s hard hustle and hipster bustle. With his own peace of mind in mind, he opted to stay with a dear friend from childhood in Springfield, TN, 30 minutes drive from Music Row.

‘”To me, I was still in L.A.,” Jennings says. “I was only in Nashville because Dave’s a good friend and we work really well together. I wasn’t interested in taking a Nashville state of mind with this record. The label wanted to put me up in a hotel but I said no, I’m going to stay with my friend and his wife. And y’know, it was the right scenario to make this record. It made everything so focused. It let me stay really centered with who I am.”

SHOOTER stakes its claim as classic country right from the jump, kicking off with the brass-fueled boogie-woogie of “Bound Ta Git Down” (though admittedly, few if any country LPs start with a high-energy honky tonk tune referencing weed, Guns n’ Roses, and Jennings’ good pal, Marilyn Manson). Jennings’ hard-fought clarity and determined honesty can be heard throughout the record, on songs like the tender “Love In A Minor Key” – which he first recorded for 2014’s George Jones tribute EP, DON’T WAIT UP (FOR GEORGE) – and “Rhinestone Eyes,” a heartfelt paean to his wife, Misty. In addition to the “bunch of songs” written at home before heading to Nashville, much of SHOOTER – including highlights like “Denim & Diamonds” and the Lone Star anthem, “Do You Love Texas?” – were co-written by Jennings and Cobb in the studio, “on the spot.”

“We’re still able to go in and get giddy and excited over creating together,” Jennings says. “Making music and then me writing lyrics. Just these real honest moments of creativity.”

SHOOTER further features songs co-written with a number of other collaborators. The rowdy, rousing “D.R.U.N.K.” was penned with Nashville songwriter Aaron Ratiere, the first time Jennings admits to any success with a traditional co-write. Elsewhere, “Fast Horses & Good Hideouts” sees Jennings and Cobb sharing a credit with iconoclastic character actor Randy Quaid.

“We’d been corresponding for a while,” Jennings says. “I was trying to get him and his wife on my radio show, but nothing ever came of it. Then I asked him about one of the YouTube videos they made of him reading out of the Bible, I wanted to play it on the Christmas episode. He wrote back, saying I’d fulfilled this lifelong dream of his to read the Gospel on the radio, and he signed it, ‘Here’s to fast horses and good hideouts.’ I thought, fuck, that would make a great song! So then I went and wrote it.”

In June 2017, Jennings and Cobb united a crack line-up of old friends and session legends to join them in the studio, including drummer Chris Powell (Jamey Johnson, Sturgill Simpson), bassist Brian Allen (Rich Robinson, Robben Ford) trumpeter Ben Clark & saxophonist Nate Heffron (Anderson East, Spock’s Beard), legendary steel guitar player Fred Newell (Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson), backing vocalists Bekka Bramlett & Kristen Rogers, and on lead guitar, Leroy Powell, formerly of Jennings’ original backing combo, The .357s.

“Leroy and I had a falling out years ago,” Jennings says, “but we patched it up really quickly. We were all young back then, young and lost, so to have him come around and play on this record meant a whole lot.”

As if that incredible cast weren’t enough, SHOOTER also features a posse of special guests answering the musical question, “Do You Love Texas?,” with an affirmative “Hell yeah!,” including Ray Benson, Jason Boland, Kris Kristofferson, Kacey Musgraves, Whiskey Myers, and Randy Rogers.

“We were mixing the record when Harvey hit down there,” Jennings says. “Dave had the idea of releasing that song early to raise money for the Rebuild Texas Fund. Then we thought how could we bring in even more money so Dave and I wrote to a bunch of our friends asking if they could give is a ‘Hell yeah’ and it all came together really quickly. The miracle of the Internet let us pull it all off in just one day.”

With his encyclopedic knowledge of music history, Jennings is well aware that self-titling an LP usually means one of two things: either the record is exceptionally personal or the artist is flat out of ideas. Suffice to say, Shooter Jennings is not an out-of-ideas kind of guy. The power and passion that rings through SHOOTER make the answer resoundingly clear.

“It’s a very honest record,” Jennings says. “There are no magic tricks. It’s really stuff that’s from the heart; it really encapsulates a lot of the styles I’ve done across all my records. Dave said, ‘Can’t we just call it SHOOTER?’ I said, I love that. Let’s just call it SHOOTER.”

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CHEAP SILVER AND SOLID COUNTRY GOLD
Recorded at Abbey Road Studios with help from the London Symphony Orchestra,Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold is Mike and the Moonpies' most adventurous record to date — an album that diversifies the band's honky-tonk roots by adding lush strings, cinematic arrangements, and collaborative songwriting to the mix. Inspired in part by the classic "countrypolitan" music of the 1960s and early '70s, these songs find frontman Mike Harmeierchanneling the smooth delivery of crooners like Glen Campbell and Frank Sinatra, backed by a band of road warriors who all played a major role in the songs' construction. The result is a modern record steeped in everything that made the old stuff so compelling: sharp storytelling; honest, dynamic performances; and a willingness to step far outside the box. 

Once celebrated as Austin's premiere dancehall band — with popular residencies at local institutions like The Hole In the Wall, Broken Spoke and the White Horse to match — the Moonpies have spent years expanding their reach far beyond the Lone Star State. Geographically, they'll always be a Texas band. Musically, they've grown into much more than that, having traded the two-steppin' twang of their earlier years for a diverse sound that's both fresh and familiar. That sound has earned the group an international following, and it was during a European tour that the bulk of Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold was created — in the same world-renowned, London-area recording studio where the Beatles recorded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Bandand Pink Floyd tracked Dark Side of the Moon, no less.

"Every time we've taken a step forward, it's a result of us refusing to become stagnant," says Harmeier, who's joined by his longtime band — pedal steel player Zach Moulton, guitarist Catlin Rutherford, bassistOmar Oyoque, keyboardist John Carbone, drummer Kyle Ponder, and producer/collaborator Adam Odor — on Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold's eight tracks. "We left our dancehall residencies years ago because we wanted to expand our touring beyond Texas. We updated our approach withMockingbird, then went back to a more traditional sound — in a 1970s, Johnny Paycheck-inspired way — with [2018’s break-out album] Steak Night at the Prairie Rose. 10 years into our career, we're still finding our voice… and we're realizing that maybe it's not onevoice, but a collection of voices."

A collection of voices, indeed. The album's lead single, "You Look Good in Neon," is a nostalgic toe-tapper that evokes Ronnie Milsap's golden years, while "Fast as Lightning" is a raucous road song that's every bit as electrifying as its title. On the nostalgic "Cheap Silver," Harmeiertakes stock of his band's progress as an eight-piece string section swoons in the background, while on "Danger" — a hard-charging epic that's fit for a Hollywood western, with a cameo by Shooter Jennings to boot — he sings directly to his son. Also making guest appearances on the album are modern-day outlaw Nikki Lane, who contributes harmony vocals to "Miss Fortune," and fellow Texas native Season Ammons, who shows up during the album's elegant cover of Gary P. Nunn's "London Homesick Blues."

Although largely recorded in London, Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold still owes its inception to Texas, where the bandmates spent a week co-writing and arranging songs at renowned yellow DOG Studios in Wimberley, TX. "Everyone had a hand in the creation process, from start to finish," says Harmeier, who shares co-writing credits with multiple Moonpies throughout the album. "I usually come to the table with all the songs already written, but this album is entirely different. We worked on everything together. It was the most collaborative thing we've ever done. It was truly the work of a band."

It's been more than a decade since Mike and the Moonpies launched their career, initially paying their dues as a versatile cover band with a catalog of 300 songs. Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold nods to those woodshedding days — not only in the album's title track, where Harmeierraises a drink and sings, "Here's to another night of paying our dues," but also in the album's handful of cover songs. The boys resurrect the twangy spirit of their dancehall days with "If You Want A Fool Around," written by Billy Troy and BennieBoling, and also put their own stamp on Aaron Sinclair's "Young in Love." Those covers serve as a tip-of-the-hat to the band's roots, while also demonstrating that the Moonpies' own songs pack just as much punch as the songs of their heroes. Harmeier and company haven't forgotten about their bar-band beginnings, but these days, they're more interested in creating their own gold. 

Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold rewrites the definition of Mike and the Moonpies' music, turning vintage influences into a contemporary that's dark, reflective, and refined.