Every week, we tell you about a new album we think you should spend time with. This week’s album is Shooter Jennings’ Countach (For Giorgio).
Sometimes, the Album of the Week is the best album out during said week. Sometimes it’s the most notable album. Sometimes, it’s both. And sometimes, it’s the 7th studio album from Waylon Jennings’ son, and that album is a covers album of Giorgio Moroder songs that are turned into country jams, and that album also includes a cover of the theme song for Neverending Story, sung by Brandi Carlile.
And that album is either
The weirdest album to exist in 2016
The best and most sonically adventurous country album I’ve heard in 2016, if you consider it a country album and not just another weird album from Waylon’s weird son
Not “good” in the traditional sense that you’d judge said things, but I suspect I love it more than 98 percent of the albums I’ve heard this year.
Or maybe it’s all three. Either way, it’s definitely the Album of the Week.
Shooter is the only child of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, who if you know anything about the history of country music, were basically the JAY-Z and Beyoncé of Outlaw Country in the '70s. Waylon spent most of his career bristling at label control, and fighting to make the music he actually wanted to make, so it makes sense that his son — who played him in Walk the Line — would ultimately do the same. After his band Stargunn broke up — and after Shooter repeatedly turned down offers to be the singer in Velvet Revolver — he lasted three albums and one compilation in the confines of major label country music, and only one of those albums (Put the “O” Back in Country) actually spawned any real airplay. But his mix of glam, hair metal, new wave and country made him an outlier from the beginning — just like his dad, but the rock influences are 20 years more current—so going independent (via his own Black Country Rock Media) seemed like the inevitable outcome for his career.
Since he’s been on his own label, he’s done things like make a spoken word album inspired by an interactive horror series, and released a collaboration album he made with his dad when he was a teen that Waylon himself couldn’t get released. In 2014, he released an EP called For George, which was all covers of George Jones songs, who, it should be noted, was featured on Shooter’s biggest single to date.
And now comes Countach (For Giorgio), as in Moroder, who Shooter says is one of his biggest musical heroes. For an indie rocker, this revelation would be ho-hum and expected. For a country musician to say Moroder, the Jedi Master of the Disco, is a huge influence on his new record — or for that record to be a Moroder covers album — feels downright revelatory. Mixed like a long disco album with no breaks between tracks, Countach is probably the first mix of euro-disco and country music that has ever happened outside of the coke dreams of a Nashville record executive.
Shooter, and guest Steve Young, turn “Born to Die” into a barroom banger, a song you could see soundtracking a pair of cowboys riding while chugging a tall can of American lager. “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone” stomps like a brontosaur, while “Countach” breaks out into some Tron-lite electronics, while being built on a foundation of a rustic guitar riff. There’s enough in just those three songs that makes this more than a goofy idea executed like those Punk Goes Crunk albums; Shooter loves the source material, and is genuinely trying to honor it here. That he completely succeeds is maybe the undertold story of this LP.
The last two tracks of Countach are where things go from this being an odd curio, to this being the most batshit thing I’ve heard this year. First, Brandi “Queen of Soundtracking Your Local Starbucks” Carlile covers the theme song from The Neverending Story. And it totally rules. Seriously.
Then Marilyn “King of Soundtracking Your Hot Topic in 1999” Manson comes through on a cover of “Cat People,” and it’s the most wounded, scary, and perfect Manson has ever been. And it totally rules. Seriously.
I don’t know if I’ve done good enough job selling you on the fact that you absolutely need to listen to this week. All I know is that I’ve listened to the full album 12 times since it came out on Friday, and it’s the only music I’ve listened to over that span. I can’t recommend this enough. Listen to it:
Andrew Winistorfer is Vinyl Me, Please’s Classics and Country Director, and an editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need In Your Collection and The Best Record Stores In The United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 20 VMP releases, and co-produced Nat Turner Rebellion's Laugh to Keep From Crying. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.