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 (who paid some dues as a roadie for Uncle Tupelo and playing on their March 16-20, 1992 album and Wilco’s debut A.M.) 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.
Until every regular guy gets a fair shake, the songs and sentiments of the Bottle Rockets will never get stale. The band, and their sound and their message, goes beyond a time or a place or a fad. The Bottle Rockets are true folk music, albeit it with beards, biker wallets and a lot more muscle.