Don't let Shooter Jennings fool you.
Sure, he rocks. He's lean and wiry, with tattoos snaking up his arms - his mother's name on one, a gun on the other - and a crimson stud gleaming in one ear. He's played sold-out shows at the Viper Room and the Roxy. He's subbed for Axl Rose onstage - twice - with Guns N' Roses.
But look a little closer. Underneath that gun are the letters CBCS, for "country boy can survive." That earring turns out to be an eagle silhouette spread-winged into the letter "W" - an icon known by anyone who has listened to and loved the original outlaw, Waylon Jennings.
That same icon is etched onto Shooter's stomach, but the one in his ear is even more special.
"My dad got his ear pierced when he was - I swear to God - sixty, because he wanted to be like me," the younger Jennings explains. "This was the earring he wore - and I'm wearing it now."
If that's not enough to make it clear that bloodlines run deep from father to son, then check out Shooter's debut album, Put the 'O' Back in Country. The passion on "Southern Comfort," scraped raw from the walls of some backwoods church...the guitars on "Daddy's Farm," stacked, harmonized and slathered in deep-fried soul..."4th of July," a crank-it-up summer celebration sweetened by a sprinkling of George Jones...the tread-shredding, back-road, hairpin spin of "Busted in Baylor County"...and, above all, "Put the 'O' Back in Country," which jabs a finger in the eye of everything that's wrong with America's music today...
Hoss, it's country music, the way it ought to be - alive with blood and thunder, spit and spirit and Southern soul.
Waylon fought this battle in his own way, back in the day. But the sun has sunk and the shadows have spread deeper across country music since then. And as cowboy poseurs roam this dim and dreary land, Shooter sets it ablaze with an affirmation that country music - real country music - is back.
And this time it's not going away.