His last name ensures that Shooter Jennings will always be held to a standard set by his legendary father, Waylon. It’s a fate as predictable as it is unfair, and Shooter decided to sprint from dad’s legacy on 2010’s mind-bending, psychedelic-metal concept album, “Black Ribbons.” If that scared away some country purists, their loss. “Family Man” doesn’t exactly find Jennings stepping up to be the next honky-tonk hero, but he embraces his name and hits with a perfect mix of twang, toughness and tenderness.
From the start, “Family Man” sounds like a reintroduction, with Jennings throwing out an endless supply of signifiers on the bar-rockin’ opener “The Real Me.” “I’m a double-talkin’, chicken-lickin’, meaner-than-the-dickens, sick and wicked, hole-diggin’ son of a gun!” he bellows in one breath, as if to certify his good ol’ boy credentials.
“Southern Family Anthem” splits the difference between Skynyrd and Neil Young, with a dissonant guitar solo and a refrain of “We may be trash, but we’re a family.”
Jennings handles the hard rock just fine and shines on the quieter songs. “Daddy’s Hands” keeps the family theme (“Another Thanksgiving on a rainy day / The whole house smells like a big ashtray / It be loud but that’s our way / We’re a family”) and manages to talk about his upbringing in a heartfelt manner while wrapping it all into a tidy, three-minute tune.
Closer “Born Again” contains Jennings’s most soulful vocals and is one of two songs that earns a great assist from Eleanor Whitmore, whose backing vocals are highlights.
The real takeaway from “Family Man” is that Jennings isn’t limited to one style. He does arena-size Americana (“The Long Road Ahead”) as well as country-radio croon (“The Deed and the Dollar”) as well as swampy, gospel-tinged groove-rock (“Manifesto #4”). Jennings may have learned a lot from dad, but he’s picked up plenty on his own.
“Daddy’s Hands,” “Born Again,” “The Long Road Ahead”