A Christmas Gift for You from Shooter Jennings
The title for this post is, of course, a reference to the classic 1963 album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. I can almost guarantee you that you have heard at least one tune from this, quite possibly the greatest Christmas album of all time, this month. If not on your stereo or iPod, then on a film, commercial, or even your local radio station.
But what I really want to talk about is Missed the Boat: A Collection of Demos and Rarities, a free download from Shooter Jennings that I received in my inbox yesterday morning. I’ll save the full review for his next proper album, but I’ll briefly describe this one enough to (hopefully) convince you to download it as well. So what if you don’t like what you’ve heard from Shooter or want to complain about him “selling out to rock” (a claim this collection puts to rest once and for all)? It’s free. Go get it.
The two earliest tracks here are from 1998 and ’99, respectively. The first, “Danger,” features his mother, Jessi Colter, on lead vocals, stepping out of her outlaw country comfort zone and entering alternative rock territory, while the second, “Only You,” comes from his industrial rock project Kilraven and is heavily influenced by Nine Inch Nails. I’ve said before that those who had heard Shooter’s hard rock band Stargunn weren’t quite as shocked as others in the country music community when Black Ribbons came out and the same argument can be made for these two tracks.
Speaking of Stargunn, they are entirely absent here and we next join Shooter in 2003 with two demos from early in his solo career, a great slide-heavy southern rocker called “Route 116” and a cover of rock band Shellac’s angry, yet somehow therapeutic, “Prayer to God.”
From 2005, we get a cover of the “Theme from The Dukes of Hazzard” (originally done by his dad, as any self-respecting music fan already knows) that, if my chronology is adding up, may have been recorded for the movie remake of the show. There’s also “A Rejected Television Theme Song” and, although I’m not a TV executive, I’m guessing that lines like “I’m a bad, bad, bad motherfucker” may have led to the tune’s rejection.
Then there is a series of demos from the major label years for released songs like “Daddy’s Farm,” “A Matter Of Time,” “Blood from a Stone,” and “This Ol’ Wheel,” which while generally not differing much from the released versions display less heavily produced renditions.
To me, though, the more recent stuff is the most interesting. An alternative mix of “Wake Up” opens the collection and it manages to be more frightening and rock harder than the Black Ribbons version even though a guitar can’t be heard anywhere on the track. “For All Debts Public in Private,” on the other hand, is a Hendrix-inspired psychedelic rock jam that is reminiscent of some of the Stargunn material. There are also three live performances from his 2010 tours, including two songs from Black Ribbons and “Manifesto No. 3,” a brand new song I heard him perform in concert back in September. A sequel to “Manifesto No. 1” and “2” (from Put the O Back in Country and Electric Rodeo, respectively), it is a great country-rock song with a cool hippie vibe. This song deserves a studio treatment, but this version more than suffices for now.
Really all I have to say for now, except that there is no reason for anybody reading this not to go to his website and download it. If you’re already a fan, this will hold you over until the next album and if you’ve yet to give Shooter a shot (pun not intended), you’ve got 15 free songs to see if he’s for you.