Shooter Jennings, Holly Williams, Rodney Crowell, and Tony Joe White

Country mile

SXSW Records

With its biggest new star belting "Freebird" and top draw outing himself as a "Ramblin' Man" at last month's Grammys, country officially became stuck in the Seventies. It's been lingering there for a while, timely for Universal South, currently rolling the dice on a pair of twentysomethings entering their family business. Son of Waylon, Shooter Jennings aims to Put the O Back in Country, but the results are "okay" rather than "oh yeah!" Trying to establish himself as an elder-respecting hellraiser, Jennings makes a valiant run at living up to his dad's outlaw legacy, but his songwriting feels more tried-on than lived-in. Holly Williams, granddaughter of Hank Sr. and daughter of Bocephus, has an equally sterling pedigree, but The Ones We Never Knew is far too Bath & Body Works for Gretchen Wilson's Jack-chugging legion of fans. With each passing album, Rodney Crowell seems to care less about commercial fortunes and more about becoming Music City's answer to erudite New York Times columnist Frank Rich. The Outsider (Sony Nashville) gives both barrels to the Bushies on "Don't Get Me Started" and self-obsessed celebrities on "The Obscenity Prayer," so Crowell's Dylan inferiority complex on "Beautiful Despair" is increasingly unfounded – doubly so when backed up by a love song like "Glasgow Girl." Tony Joe White, who's always been a sort of Southern Tom Jones, leaves the social debate to others and fogs up the windows with a variety of partners – Shelby Lynne, Emmylou Harris, Shooter's mom Jessi Colter – on The Heroines (Sanctuary). Sexy never goes out of style, so maybe this is what Nashville needs: a good round or two of wife-swapping. (Shooter Jennings: Wednesday, March 16, Fox & Hound @ 11pm; Holly Williams: Wednesday, March 16, 9pm @ Fox & Hound; Rodney Crowell: Wednesday, March 16, 1am @ Antone's; Tony Joe White: Thursday, March 17, 12mid @ Antone's)

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