The Bottle Rockets--"Solitaire" (mp3)
Because they've played in a lot of bars.
Because they write songs about being in bars.
The Bottle Rockets are, without a doubt, America's premier bar band. And that, in no way, intends to damn them with faint praise. They are also one of America's best bands. And they are playing a free outdoor show in Chattanooga tonight. I'm fired up.
I don't even remember how I got into the Bottle Rockets, probably followed one of those alt-country flow charts that somehow led me to them, but I've been with them since their first album, and they have very rarely disappointed.
1) writes songs about being in love with the girl who sits in the booth at a small gas station?
2) writes songs about a family burned up in their trailer because they tried to heat it with gasoline instead of kerosene? (played it)
3) writes songs that reveal this kind of wisdom: "If a thousand-dollar car was really worth a damn/then why would anybody ever spend ten grand?" (played it)
4) writes songs about a guy who watches "Sunday sports in his boxer shorts?"
5) writes songs about Nancy Sinatra?
6) writes songs about being "stuck in Indianapolis with a fuel pump that deceased?" (played it)
7) writes songs that reference Rush Limbaugh as an "angry, fat man on the radio/[who] wants to keep his taxes way down low?" (played it)
8) writes songs about coffee?
9) writes songs about the "kid next store [who]...ain't comin' back no more" because he went off to fight in the Middle East?
10) writes songs about an abused woman sitting alone smoking cigarettes who threw her man out of the house but knows damn well that if he'll just call, she'll take him back?
And all of that is in addition to the songs about the bars--like "Slo Tom's" (played it) a shitty little bar that is right down the block from where they live and "ain't much a nuthin' but it sure is somethin'," or a bar where the narrator is seeing double, but is counting on "One of You" to help him get home.
And in addition to that, Brian Henneman's songs convey the underlying romanticism of the best country music with some of the prettiest, saddest little songs you'll ever hear, like "Got What I Wanted, But Lost What I Had" and "Pot Of Gold." Their reach extends from the loneliness of modern cowboys to the Kit Kat Clock that's "hangin' in the kitchen." (played it)
Add, finally, add to that a band that's tighter than a nun's crotch, with two killer guitar players, one of whom, Henneman, also possesses a wry sense of humor and an unabashed love of Neil Young and you've got authentic American roots rock at its finest.
The Bottle Rockets are one of those bands that you kind of take for granted because they aren't that popular and so you kind of figure they will always kind of be around, but now that they are here, now that I've written about them, it all kind of coalesces for me: Man, these guys are really, really good and I can't wait to see them.
The Bottle Rockets' new CD, Lean Forward, is available at eMusic.