Hill Country, New York, NY
March 5th, 2012
Concert Review: Shooter Jennings at Hill Country
In an intimate setting, reminiscent of what you’d expect to stumble into at a boozy, southern backyard party, Chelsea’s Hill Country was transformed Monday night from barbecue haven into a country music stomping ground. While it was all good eatin’ upstairs at the restaurant, the lower level Boot Bar was jam packed for country crooner Shooter Jennings in celebration of his new album “Family Man,” which drops Tuesday, March 13th. The atmosphere felt more like a party than a performance as the band mixed songs old and new in a 75 minute set rife with playful banter, howls from the audience, and even some imperfections, that make the experience of seeing an artist of Jennings’ caliber in venue this size, all the more personal.
There’s a considerable amount of soul and an undeniable authenticity in Shooter Jennings, standing up on stage and performing on his pulpit trying to convert country music back to that throwback outlaw style that it used to be, one Sugarland fan at a time. Son of the legendary Waylon Jennings, the singer discreetly took the stage to a rousing ovation, decked out in a black button down, brown cowboy boots, and his signature large frame glasses, joined by the other four members of his band. Almost immediately, the band launched into “The Real Me,” a catchy honky-tonk style track from the new album, “Manifesto No. 2” (he’s got a total of 4 of them), and a particularly rousing version of the familiar “Gone to Carolina” both from 2006’s “Electric Rodeo.”
Jennings is hardly the prettiest, flashiest, or the most sound vocalist in country music. But his unquestionable passion for his music is palpable with every strum of his rhythmic acoustic guitar- the simple way he engages the crowd and acknowledges his bandmates for instance, simply show this certain understated charisma that only a genuine artist would be able to pull off. Pleasing some of the older fans in the house, Jennings mused “Here’s one for the Waylon fans” and set off on a cover of his father’s “Laid Back Country Picker,” at which point much of the audience, already dancing in place for much of the show, joined in clapping hands together.
With the new album just days from release, Jennings crushed his performance of his new single “The Deed and the Dollar,” a vocally focused, excellent foot stomping slower tune that doubles as a love letter to a past flame. The singer also surprised the small but vociferous audience with the announcement of a second new album coming in September called “The Other Life.” He begged the crowd not to record the performance of two completely new and unreleased songs from the fall album, which fans seemingly obliged.
The standing room only section of the downstairs bar cheered the singer on as he emerged from the backstage area by himself with just his guitar by his side for the encore. The crowd erupted as Jennings’ gravelly voice began “4th of July,” playing much of the song solo before the rest of his band joined him onstage during the second chorus, to beef up its supporting sound. The bar became a feel good sing-along to Jennings’ most well known song, and one of the truly unheralded country singles of the past decade. Just before finishing his set Jennings asked the crowd “how many country loving Yankees do we have in the house tonight?” and then “okay, how many country loving rednecks do we have in the house tonight?” When the same applause rang out for both answers, Jennings joked “now, you can’t be both.” Maybe so, but for a brief amount of time on a Monday night in New York City, Shooter Jennings and company made us forget about the perils of our urban lifestyles and showed an audience of big city-dwellers what a little southern hospitality was all about.
- Jane Van Arsdale