Album Review: Yelawolf x Shooter Jennings – Sometimes Y

When I first heard that southern rapper Yelawolf was teaming up with Shooter Jennings to work on an album, I expected to hear something that highlighted the outlaw country/Americana leanings of Jennings with Yelawolf‘s rap/swamp rock style. Then I heard first single “Make Me a Believer” and realized these two were not going in any direction I was expecting, and I definitely liked it.

Riding catchy keyboard lines with slick, synthy guitars, “Make Me a Believer” could fit on any classic Killers or Strokes album, with its anthemic chorus and huge hooks. With the release of second single “Rock and Roll Baby”, the collaboration showed off an undeniable love of 80’s production style, crafting a huge power ballad over heavy, industrial drums, lilting guitar lines and a Slash-worthy guitar solo. Yet the duo also give the song a sense of foreboding in the tone, which plays true to a number of tracks here on Sometimes Y.

“Radio” has the kind of dark, synthy guitars, vocal effects and angular chorus that could have made it a hit for Depeche Mode in their heyday (though it sounds damn good coming from Yelawolf and Shooter). The opening title track is a mini rock opera, opening with spacey synths and a launch countdown, before those elements converge on break-neck rap-metal spitfire verses from Yelawolf and rocking blues riffs from Shooter. The bridge grooves out with some drawn out soul, before returning for one final hyper chorus. There’s even a bit of country on Sometimes Y, flavoring the chill, acoustic “Hole In My Head” (where Yelawolf presents his most sweet and melodic vocals to date), and the slide guitar creating the moody atmosphere of speak-sung “Shoe String”.

The album seems to delight in eschewing expectations. Even while Yelawolf sings “I’ve been a missionary for the devil”, he and Jennings turn up the hand claps and drums for the feel-good pop rock “Jump Out the Window”, which is one of the catchiest songs on the album (and deserving of being a single). “Fucked Up Day” starts as a dark, poetic folk lament of our troubled world, but smoothly rolls into psychedelic territories, with an acidic guitar solo and breathy vocals that would fit in on a Pink Floyd album. And if you wanted some even bigger juxtaposition, put the hushed piano ballad “Catch You On the Other Side” against the metal-punk closer “Moonshiner’s Run”. Both are equally strong, and somehow work together on this album.

Sometimes Y takes both artists into brand new musical realms, paying homage to a number of classic rock artists while still leaving their own stylistic marks. Listen to the full album on March 11th, and check out the first two singles here.

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