I had a dream last night that I woke up from a long sleep and was the only writer left in the country music blogsphere that hadn’t succumbed to the cult of personality of Shooter Jennings and could actually write an objective review. Then I realized that I was wide ass awake.
Last week Shooter Jennings released the video for “The Deed & The Dollar”, his first official single to his upcoming album Family Man due out in March. You think this is going to be a negative review, don’t you? The truth is, there is a lot to admire and give credit to in this song and it’s video. I just continue to be dumbfounded by the almost idolatry that some pay to anything Shooter Jennings poops out, and I feel the need to offer some perspective. And my perspective on “The Deed & The Dollar” is that it’s “just okay.”
What I give Shooter credit for on this song is for trying, and for how he tried. Just like with his song “Outlaw You” (which for the folks that say I hate everything Shooter does, I gave a very positive review), he releases this song through video; a savvy move. The songs biggest strength is the video, and Shooter’s willingness to show a deep submissiveness to his lover in a sharp, chivalrous message that is both brave and effective as a vehicle to covey emotion through story.
But that’s about where my kudos end. The song’s two-note Waylon beat and bass drum are neat, but a little too obvious, and though the vulnerability Shooter displays through the lyrics is the best part, by the end of the song, it feels tired, as does some of the forced rhymes and witticisms that may make you grin, but never really score deep. In the end this song is just very soft. There’s nothing bad or wrong with it, there’s just nothing deeply engaging. I said in a review for the Turnpike Troubadours a couple of weeks ago, “real country fans are hard on positive love songs.” I think “The Deed & The Dollar” proves why this is true.
However some of the softness of the song might lead to some moderate mainstream success. Last week, Shooterworld was all abuzz that this video was #1 on CMT for a few days. It’s certainly an accomplishment worth noting, and it was likely helped along by the smart choice of including shots of Shooter’s celebrity fiance Drea de Matteo in it. But in the end, it settled farther down the charts, probably where the song belongs.
Something else I’ll say in the defense of this song, just like the other song from Family Man that has been released, the very unusual and easily-misunderstood “Southern Family Anthem”, this song will probably be helped once it is in the context of the “Family Man” album concept.
If Shooter Jennings’ “XXX” movement is ever really going to take shape and create any sort of consensus, it is going to have to do it through the music. He can build all the little satellite web properties he wants, and do all manner of behind-the-scenes nation building (which at this point has had mixed results at best), but in the end, it comes down to the music.
“The Deed & The Dollar” is just too soft to create any sort of mainstream to underground translation. Some dude sitting on CMT with a backwards baseball cap and a Tap Out T-shirt is not going to watch this and through osmosis get in to “Josephus and the George Jonestown Massacre” whose sticker is stuck on Shooter’s guitar in the video.
Family Man may eventually become that breakthrough album, but it is hard to see “The Deed & The Dollar” becoming a breakout song, in the underground or the mainstream.
1 1/4 of 2 guns up.