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Album Review: Shooter Jennings and Hierophant - Black Ribbons
by Ilya Hemlin

Never satisfied in being known as just the son of Waylon Jennings, Shooter rounds up a whole new gang of outlaws to form Hierophant .  Don’t be fooled by his down south heritage. While Shooter is more than apt at making solid country-rock, for Black Ribbons he infuses noisy rock, electronica, and even Stephen King into what could be one of the best concept albums of the year. 

The horror guru is central to the albums story. A tale revolving around Will O’ the Wisp, a radio talk show host being taken off the air by government censorship.  He spends his last show going into diatribes about lost freedoms and the fall of America while playing songs from the one truly important band, Hierophant. 

Black Ribbons has an undoubtedly dark tone, highlighted with eerie “mic breaks” from King’s “Will O’ the Wisp” character in between songs.  Songs like “Don’t feed the Animals” and  “Everything Else is Illusion” incorporate so many unexpected but welcome beeps, synth lines, and drones it is hard to believe the prince of country music wrote them. 

This new iteration of Shooters Jennings’ band loves to toy with your expectations.  Based on the front man I expected a solid country rock album, and within the first two minutes I quickly realized something else is afoot.  While I knew Stephen King had some part in the album, his role was so vital I felt like his voice was an instrument all by itself (don’t worry, he never actually sings).  And just when I started getting comfortable with any particular sound, Shooter and Hierophant will throw a curve ball, like a fast passed raucous punk-esq track (**** You, I’m famous), a true to form country ballad (God Bless Alabama), or even a fun song with a surprising but tasteful use of autotune (Lights in the Sky). 

Ultimately Black Ribbon is an album that has to be listened to, I mean really listened to.  Not just thrown in your car’s CD player on the way to the store, but given the time and attention it deserves.  It harkens back to albums like “Dark Side of the Moon”  where you would take out your “good” headphones, lie down, close your eyes and listen to the album from start to finish taking in all of the different elements.  It has some rough edges here and there but if this selection from Shooter Jennings and Hierophant is any indication of what is to come, Broken Ribbon will be a landmark album for them.