Shooter Jennings Sees A Bleak Future On 'Black Ribbons' Singer-songwriter Shooter Jennings released three country-rock records before parting ways with his Nashville-based record label. His fourth CD, Black Ribbons, is a progressive-rock concept album that looks into a not-too-distant dystopian future, and features spoken-word pieces by horror writer Stephen King.
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Shooter Jennings Sees A Bleak Future On 'Black Ribbons'

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Shooter Jennings Sees A Bleak Future On 'Black Ribbons'


Music Reviews



A dystopian American future, brooding synthesizers, and a cameo from horror author Stephen King all figure into the new album from Shooter Jennings and his band Hierophant. Shooter is the son of country music legend Wayland Jennings. Meredith Ochs has our review.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SHOOTER JENNINGS (Musician): (Singing) They say good fences make good neighbors. For you, my friend, this might be true. But you've still got to put bars on the windows...

MEREDITH OCHS: From the opening moments of his new album, Shooter Jennings articulates 21st century alienation, isolation and fear. Jennings imagines our nation as a place where freedom has eroded completely. The streets are patrolled by troops, and the media is controlled by the government.

Only one honest voice remains: a late-night radio host. Jennings is understandably fascinated by radio. He hosts a show on Sirius XM's Outlaw Country, one of the channels where I work. Stephen King plays the role of radio personality Will O' The Wisp.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. STEPHEN KING (Author): (As Will o' The Wisp): I've always started my shows by saying that all ships lost in the night search for the lighthouse on the rock of the enlightened, but good truth-seekers out there, the battery is fading, and the light is dying. I see that freedom has failed us, and with no light, the night's going to be a long one. Woody Guthrie said: This land is your land, this land is my land. Great words, but this land is their land now.

OCHS: This is the last independent broadcast that his listeners will ever hear. As the men with guns approach his studio, King offers commentary on the world that was, a look into the world that could be, and he plays the music of the one band that matters to him - which is, of course, Shooter Jennings and Hierophant.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JENNINGS: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

OCHS: On this CD, "Black Ribbons," Shooter Jennings illustrates the despair that seems to be zeitgeist now: dark, densely textured songs. He borrows heavily from Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers, and the Beatles circa "Abbey Road."

Like a lot of the weighty music to which it pays homage, "Black Ribbons" is not an easy album to listen to, with its keyboard blips and lengthy jams - not to mention that the whole thing clocks in at around 70 minutes. But it's ambitious, emotionally on target, and quite beautiful at times.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JENNINGS: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

OCHS: Despite all the desolation, Shooter Jennings asks the question that so many of us are asking in this era of economic decline, lack of trust in government and general uncertainty: Can we still hope for a better future?

Jennings need only look to his real-life, 2-year-old daughter, Alabama, the subject of this song, to know that the answer is yes. No matter how bad things get, there's hope to be found in truth and in love, whatever your truth happens to be, and whomever you happen to love.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: The new album from Shooter Jennings and Hierophant is called "Black Ribbons." Our reviewer is Meredith Ochs.

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