Songwriters Henneman’s, Ortmann’s, and contributor Scott Taylor’s lyrics succinctly and endearingly encapsulate the common experiences of the everyman, and are set to stirring, rousing, searing rock ‘n’ roll. Considered to be the godfathers of the ’90s alt-country/roots rock revival along with peers Uncle Tupelo, the Bottle Rockets are seasoned contemporary storytellers from Middle America. Their songs “Welfare Music”, “Kerosene”, “Zoysia”, “Baggage Claim”, “Blind”, “Wave That Flag”, “Align Yourself”, “Middle Man”, “Rich Man in the Graveyard”, and “Kid Next Door” are examples of social commentary in the Bottle Rockets’ original hybrid Woody Guthrie meets Neil Young meets The Replacements American roots music sound. The single “Radar Gun” was a hit on rock radio—reaching #27 on Billboard’s rock chart. The band appeared on the television show Late Night with Conan O’Brien performing one of their original songs as well as being featured in a comedic skit. In 1992 Henneman recorded the solo 45rpm single “Indianapolis,” an autobiographical song which he had written about Uncle Tupelo’s van breaking down on tour. It was released on Rockville Records backed with two more originals, “Get Down River” and “Wave That Flag”, featuring vocal and instrumental back-up by Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, and Mark Ortmann.
Meanwhile, manager Tony Margherita shopped demos made by Brian Henneman, which had been recorded with leftover studio time from the Still Feel Gone sessions. When those demos garnered a record deal with East Side Digital records, Brian Henneman formed the Bottle Rockets with drummer Mark Ortmann (Chicken Truck, Blue Moons) in 1992. Throughout 1993-94, during Uncle Tupelo’s slow dissolution, these bands continued to be closely interconnected. In addition to Farrar and Tweedy appearing on the Bottle Rockets’ debut album, Henneman and the two bands also shared the same management and frequently performed together. When Uncle Tupelo disbanded in 1994, Henneman played lead guitar on Wilco’s debut, A.M.
That same year, the Bottle Rockets released their critically acclaimed album The Brooklyn Side and toured with Wilco and with Son Volt in 1995. “Power hooks and muscular guitar fights that would make Skynyrd proud” and “‘70s power rock with a dirty edge—sort of ZZ Top meets Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Bad Company” is the calling card of the band’s 1999 release, Brand New Year. After years of misleading portrayals of the band’s music as “hillbilly”, the band’s catalog proves otherwise with themes of maturity, generosity of spirit, neighborliness, insightful self-reflection, personal roots and modern society, individualism, pride of place, slow-mending hearts, and post-9/11 reality through the filter of a couple’s romance. “But the late ’90s exacted a heavy toll on the band,” Peter Blackstock wrote in No Depression issue #48, in a feature aptly titled, “Hell of a Spell: What Hasn’t Killed The Bottle Rockets Has Made Them Stronger.” Besides having their career held hostage to a staggering series of record companies they’d had contracts with that folded and/or floundered, a UPS strike holding up distribution of one of their new records, and band personnel changes, Henneman’s parents both died within 6 weeks of each other. The band had been touring with Lucinda Williams and had to leave the tour prematurely. After more than their share of hard knocks, the Bottle Rockets continued with their trailblazing edge intact with Zoysia (2006, Bloodshot): “It would be a mistake to claim that Missouri’s answer to Neil Young’s Crazy Horse has gone soft but their first release in more than three years shows greater range and reflection than is typical for the rock-solid quartet. The opening “Better Than Broken”, the brooding “Happy Anniversary”, and the acoustic wistful “Where I Come From” all evoke the aftermath of romantic upheaval… “Middle Man” could be the band’s signature tune defining a sensibility that is Middle American in more than geography.
The sage wisdom of frontman Brian Henneman’s “Blind” and the twang of “Feeling Down” show the band’s countrier side while “I Quit” has the groove of retro soul. Yet the guitar finale of the seven-minute album-closing title song [“Zoysia”] finds the Bottle Rockets as explosive as ever.” —Don McLeese Zoysia received rave reviews worldwide including a spot on novelist/audiophile Stephen King’s Best Records of 2006 list in Entertainment Weekly magazine. Zoysia (zoy-zhuh), a metaphor for tolerance and centered values and common ground, is a hardy grass, plentiful in Festus/Crystal City and Saint Louis, Missouri, where these hardworking musicians grew up. Lean Forward was released in 2009 by Bloodshot Records. The album charted on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart at #23. “The Bottle Rockets fuse a regular guy’s sensibilities and concerns with a streetwise intelligence that’s smart without sounding arrogant, and their music is solid, Southern-style meat-and-potatoes rock at its best; it’s a formula they’ve mastered over the years, and Lean Forward shows it’s still delivering soul-satisfying results more than a decade and a half on.” — Mark Deming, All Music Guide Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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