Shooter Jennings & Hierophant Black Ribbons

Word of this ambitious project has been circulating for a year, and hearing it now is the overdue evidence that Jennings has finally stepped out of his late father Waylon's shadow. Structured as a radio broadcast on the eve of the apocalypse (with no less than Stephen King serving as DJ), Black Ribbons is a swirling psychedelic southern rock opera that pulls no punches in lambasting the worst aspects of American society (excluding Shooter himself, who's had plenty of doors open for him just because of his name). There's no doubt that Jennings' intent for this album are genuine, but after only a few songs the question arises, is this just an over-the-top response from someone desperately seeking the respect of his peers? The answer probably has something to do with Shooter's friendship with Axl Rose, since Black Ribbons has an overwrought Chinese Democracy vibe all over it. That doesn't make it a bad album; when Jennings pulls back the mayhem a bit on ballads such as "All Of This Could Have Been Yours," his natural talent comes across. Still, every artist needs to push their personal boundaries, which Jennings definitely has here. Approach with caution. (429)