Shooter Jennings - Black Ribbons
There's no denying Shooter Jennings' ambition. Waylon's boy has done anything but play it safe on his new album Black Ribbons.
The album is a concept record brimming with Jennings' typical scathing political commentary. In a futuristic world the government has begun to censor radio content. Popular late night talk host Will O' The Wisp (voiced by author Stephen King), plays music and talks the state of society during his final broadcast.
The music on the album is no less ambitious than it's concept. There is a futuristic sound to go along with the theme. Whether it be the spaced-out Pink Floyd-like prog rock of "Wake Up!" or the computer-generated blips and bloops that permeate nearly every track, the music has a feeling of not being of this time and place.
While most of the tracks lean towards arena and progressive rock, country rock elements still peep through from time to time. "Everything Else Is Illusion" is a classic country-influenced stomp while "God Bless Alabama" is a nearly anthemic southern sing-along. In both these cases Jennings makes them fit in with the album with the judicious use of the computer sounds.
Using prog rock to this extent almost guarantees that the album will sound disjointed and lumbering at times. That's the case more than once. Songs like "The Breaking Point" and "All of This Could Have Been Yours", while more intense than say Rush, drag badly regardless. At it's most difficult to listen to, "Lights In the Sky" will serve as a painful reminder as to why this genre died in the first place.
Jennings definitely deserves a tip of the hat for having the courage to undertake a project of this scope and orientation. However, it often succeeds more on paper than it does on CD.
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