The Bottle Rockets
When The Bottle Rockets hit the scene in the mid ‘90s, the world wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. With their punk-rock pedigrees and arena-rock energy, their tougher-than-Springsteen storytelling and their romantic hearts sewn bare on their denim sleeves, the pride of Festus, MO confounded musical generalities as they laid waste to clubs across the Midwest and then, soon enough, the nation.
Back in a time when the critical language and resulting idioms for mixing underground rock with country was in its infancy, The Bottle Rockets were fearlessly – and quite loudly – playing rootsy weepers alongside howling rave ups, with singer/guitarist Brian Henneman leading the charge as some sort of Roger Miller of the indie set. It’s a sound propped up (and hopped up) just as much on the pillars of Leslie West & Mountain as it was on those of the Ramones and the Clash.
The Bottle Rockets’ first and second albums, Bottle Rockets and The Brooklyn Side, are widely revered as not only two of the band’s finest releases, but also two formative, flagship recordings in the nascent era of a now-broadly recognized genre. The band was unceremoniously birthed in 1992 and they very quickly became a forebearer for the new style alongside Uncle Tupelo, Old 97’s, and Whiskeytown.
The songs, stories and sentiments found on these groundbreaking albums sound just as fresh and relevant now as they did when they were first released. The Bottle Rockets never did it the easy way and never compromised their sound or themselves. Always too punk for country audiences, too genuine for the smug irony of the hipster scene, and too smart for the outdoor one-hitter rock festival crowd, The Bottle Rockets remained The Bottle Rockets, and this is a document of where it all started.
Bottle Rockets and The Brooklyn Side are collected here as a remastered two-CD deluxe reissue set of the long out-of-print albums, with an additional 19 previously unreleased tracks. The package consists of an extensive 40-page booklet detailing the band in full context of the ‘90s alt- scene, with editorial contributions from respected peers and fellow musicians such as Steve Earle, Patterson Hood,Lucinda Williams, and many others. Both reissued albums and bonus material have been meticulously remastered under the supervision of famed producer and musician Eric “Roscoe” Ambel.
Bottle Rockets was originally released in 1993 and was the first true showing of the band’s signature country-aware, rough and ragged rock ‘n’ roll style, matched with Henneman’s blue-collar songwriting skills, with lyrics depicting the life, struggle and dark humors of everyday people. The eponymous album notably features back-up vocal performances from former members of Uncle Tupelo: Jeff Tweedy (now of Wilco) and Jay Farrar (Son Volt). Bonus tracks include original demos from Henneman, both solo and backed by the members of Uncle Tupelo, acoustic demos, and Chicken Truck/pre-Bottle Rockets-era recordings.
In 1994, The Brooklyn Side came out to a relatively greater amount of significant success, marked both by its stature in the now burgeoning alt- movement and as The Bottle Rockets’ most popular effort to date. Following the album release, the band later signed with major label Atlantic Records, toured widely, and reached a national audience with an appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Bonus songs for The Brooklyn Side reissue include acoustic demos, unreleased tracks from the album sessions, and live recordings from the era.
If you like: Drive-By Truckers, Whiskeytown, Uncle Tupelo, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires