Alt-Country’s Boost Stage
Back when Seattle was grunging and New York and L.A. were gangsta-ing, something entirely different was going on in Middle America. Bands like The Bottle Rockets and Uncle Tupelo were taking old school country and Americana and mixing it with some rock, punk and alternative influences– from that, alt-country/roots rock was born. In a great trip down memory lane (or a fresh take on a now classic genre), The Bottle Rockets have re-issued remastered versions of their first two albums (with tons of cool bonus stuff) as Bottle Rockets/The Brooklyn Side Reissues.
Throughout this double album, The Bottle Rockets are heard finding their sound and voice. The answers develop over the course of the project, starting with the stark, 107-second, “Early in the Morning’s.” With a simple banjo and Brian Henneman’s emotive voice like a night-owling hooligan awoken too early, it is perhaps the best track of the lot. As the album continues, the band develops its sound and misses the mark slightly in heavy, clunky tracks without much to say, including “Gas Girl” and “Trailer Mama.” These tracks rock, and will move the butts to the dance floor at the roadhouse, but not much to hear in the living room.
The Bottle Rockets really hit their stride when playing the poppier side of the genre, like the song “Kerosene,” putting their own sound and voice to songs that could otherwise be mainstream radio hits (at least in the ’90s). Likewise, their old school country chops are well-represented on old back-beaters like “Every Kind of Everything,” and “Bud Nanney Theme.” But the group really takes off when the material is fresh and inspired, and not a clever take on a re-hash.
The second half of the re-release, The Brooklyn Side is a more practiced and polished work. The Bottle Rockets have found their voice and sound, and it shows on tracks like “Welfare Music,” “I Wanna Come Home” and “I’ll Be Coming Around.” The goodies continue, with original homages to Chuck Berry, Tom Petty and Neil Young-– all really well done. And for the true believers, there’s 19 bonus, never-released demos and live tracks from both The Bottle Rockets and their predecessor, Chicken Truck.
The Bottle Rockets were a major influence on the birth of the alt-country/roots rock scene. They, Uncle Tupelo and a few others started a minor country revolution that still reverberates. Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar supported The Bottle Rockets in demos and on their first album with backing tracks and vocals. Truly, any fan of the genre will find songs they connect with on this re-issue, as will country, rock and alternative fans who may have never heard The Bottle Rockets before. But this album is truly for the fans, and every one of them will eat it up.