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HARD TO HANDLE

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Just a month before the release of Shooter Jennings' sophomore album Electric Rodeo, inspiration struck in the middle of the night, so Jennings and his band, the .357s, went back into the studio to bang out a brand-new track, "It Ain't Easy." The gangly, scruffy son of an outlaw legend worked over the piano keys while growling out a bluesy chorus that would, with the addition of gospel-ish backup vocals, sound a helluva lot like something that should've been on The Big Chill's soundtrack. It would also sound nothing like what they call country at Wal-Mart.

"I got a lot of press with the first record," he says of his equally un-Wal-Mart-worthy debut, Put the "O" Back in Country. "I knew they were going to pass judgment, compare" – compare him to his dad, Waylon, that is – "but after Electric Rodeo comes out, they're either going to have to start listening or just ignoring me."

Now, with "It Ain't Easy" finished and Electric Rodeo in stores, Jennings has but one request: Don't label him the new face of outlaw country.

"Outlaw country is dead, as far as I'm concerned. It died with Waylon," says Shooter. "`With the debut album`, the critics were 'outlaw this' and 'outlaw this.' Hank Williams III is there talking about how big of an outlaw he is and everybody's outlaws and outlaws this and that. Fuck all that. That was intelligent business. We're talking about the changing of music, not the claiming of a name."

Changing of music? Yep, you heard him right. Jennings is leading an open, cuss-filled charge on Music Row's illogical refusal to welcome Southern rock into its mindless, Bubba-on-crack, Toby Keith-clone-lovin' arms. "It's the only place it can come back through," he contends. "If the Eagles came back today, they'd be country band. They wouldn't be a rock band.

"Country could do it if they just stepped up to the plate and started taking more risks, not making it all for soccer mommies. If country music expanded its borders and took in all these homeless Southern fuckers, it would be huge. I go to these country stations and the DJs will kiss my ass and smoke weed with me. They're total hillbillies into all that, but then they say, 'We're not allowed to play that.'"

So how does Waylon Jennings' progeny think Electric Rodeo will go down with stuffy country critics and uncooperative radio stations? "With me, I'm clearly Waylon's son," he says. "I'm doing my own thing musically, which is similar to him in that way. But I'm merely just an extension of what he did. Critics compared on the first record, but on the second record they can't write another review about how I'm Waylon's son. At least they can't write the same thing twice."

Shooter Jennings
with The Elms

8 pm Wednesday, April 26
The Social

music@orlandoweekly.com

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