One Track Mind: Shooter Jennings, “4th of July” from Put the O Back in Country (2005)

Shooter Jennings’ debut record was an odd, but compelling mix of tunes. You had rowdy, hell-raising Southern rock (“Busted in Baylor County,” “Manifesto No. 1″). There were very sincere country songs (“Lonesome Blues,” “Southern Comfort”). The title track was an adaptation of a Neil Young piece that was also performed by his dad Waylon. And there was even a strange Kid Rock-like gangster number (“Daddy’s Farm”) that ends in an answering machine message from Hank Williams Jr. — and then leads into the hidden piano ballad “My Song for You.”

Nestled among all of those is this tune and, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why it wasn’t a huge summer hit. It has all the makings. It’s a jangly, light-hearted rock song with an infectious hook and a carefree sort of attitude. It’s the kind of song that you’d have blaring out of your car with the windows and the top down as you headed up to the lake for your Fourth of July celebration.

The subject matter perfectly fits a big summer hit, too. What could be more appropriate for one of those than a guy dreaming about loading his lady up in the “dusty old RV” and heading out on the highway just to watch the lines and the signs pass by with no particular destination in mind.

“4th of July” also sums up a bit of what Shooter himself is about with nods to rocker Ted Nugent and country legend George Jones thrown into the chorus: “We sang ‘Stranglehold’ til the stereo couldn’t take no more of that rock ‘n’ roll, so we put on a little George Jones and just sang along.”

The Possum himself also makes an appearance at the end of the song. We hear someone running through a radio dial, which settles on the opening of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Jones re-recorded it for the song, and it ends with him asking Shooter, “When are we going to get paid for this, you reckon?” and everyone in the studio laughing.

It’s breezy, it’s fun and it doesn’t ask us to think too much. It’s everything that you want from a great summer song. If you’re planning a playlist for a road trip this holiday weekend, it’s a perfect piece to throw ito the mix.

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.