The Washington Post

Critic’s Notebook: Shooter Jennings, Marcus Canty

Notable recordings from the world of pop music.

Shooter Jennings

A Shooter Jennings album is usually a wild, brave, zigzag of a thing. The 33-year-old country prince has never been afraid to swing hard, and sometimes, he misses. But when he hits, you might lose a few teeth.

That’s kind of what Jennings is singing about on “The Low Road,” a highlight from “The Other Life,” his sixth and strongest studio album. (Other highlights: proggy keyboard solos, ominous UFO metaphors, a lovely duet with Patty Griffin.)

With “The Low Road,” he outlines a life of desperate measures. The first verse is about sending a schoolyard bully to the dentist with the swing of his “Skeletor lunch box.” The final chorus paraphrases the career advice of his late father, outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings: “My daddy always said, ‘Son, don’t ever try to be just like another one of them boys, ’cause you ain’t never gonna be.’ ”

Here’s another album that proves it.

Marcus Canty

After more than a decade of Justin Guarinis and Sanjaya Malakars, we all know how this works. A stint on a singing game show can momentarily transform an unknown into a celebrity. But it won’t magically transform a singer into an artist.

Washington-born singer and former “X Factor USA” contestant Marcus Canty is valiantly trying to lunge across that chasm on his debut “This . . . Is Marcus Canty,” a collection of seven throat-flexing songs in the mode of Usher, Ne-Yo and Mario.

It’s not the most adventurous R&B out there, but the proceedings take a deliciously wicked turn with “Used by You,” a throbbing, mid-tempo invitation to a woman who might consider exacting her revenge on an unfaithful lover with a visit to Canty’s bedroom. His voice somewhere between pleading and calculating, Canty delivers the most sinister of pickup lines: “Girl, don’t get mad, get even.”

Chris Richards is The Washington Post's pop music critic. He has recently written about Adele's sadness, Kendrick Lamar's fury, Young Thug's genius and T-Pain's vulnerability.



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Ron Charles · March 12, 2013