Jason Boland & The Stragglers
Don't let Shooter Jennings fool you. Sure, he rocks. He's lean and wiry, with tattoos snaking up his arms - his mother's name on one, a gun on the other - and a crimson stud gleaming in one ear. He's played sold-out shows at the Viper Room and the Roxy. He's subbed for Axl Rose onstage - twice - with Guns N' Roses. But look a little closer. Underneath that gun are the letters CBCS, for "country boy can survive." That earring turns out to be an eagle silhouette spread-winged into the letter "W" - an icon known by anyone who has listened to and loved the original outlaw, Waylon Jennings. That same icon is etched onto Shooter's stomach, but the one in his ear is even more special. "My dad got his ear pierced when he was - I swear to God - sixty, because he wanted to be like me," the younger Jennings explains. "This was the earring he wore - and I'm wearing it now." If that's not enough to make it clear that bloodlines run deep from father to son, then check out Shooter's debut album, Put the 'O' Back in Country. From the passion on "Southern Comfort," scraped raw from the walls of some backwoods church, to the guitars on "Daddy's Farm," stacked, harmonized and slathered in deep-fried soul, Shooter makes country music the way it ought to be - alive with blood and thunder, spit and spirit, and of course, Southern soul.