Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Afternoon Show host Kevin Cole, is “Way It Used to Be” by The Bottle Rockets from the 2009 album Lean Forward on Bloodshot Records.
Any follower of the 80s and early 90s alt-country scene is well aware of Brain Henneman’s story from bandmate of Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy to Uncle Tupelo roadie to fronting his own hard knock outfit, The Bottle Rockets. Not only is it the story of lesser Hollywood; it’s the story that drives so much classic country, be it the alternative or mainlined varieties. Henneman, however, isn’t looking to cash in on royalties and studio executives — he’s just looking to bring a hearty blend of Americana to outlying towns that have rarely heard what the heartland has to offer without slick Nashville production and cheap Patriotic lyrics.
For more than 15 years, Henneman and his band of brothers, known as The Bottle Rockets, have lived in the shadows while his friends and allies have reaped the fruits of the media. The stories of Uncle Tupelo and its offshoots are well worn — nothing new left to mine. The alt-country press was quick to gloss over The Bottle Rockets while Whiskeytown, Slaid Cleaves, Tim Easton, and Neko Case became flavors of the month (of course, they deserved the accolades and attention). It did not stop The Bottle Rockets; it only fueled their fire. However, despite five albums of great material, it wasn’t until the band’s signing to Bloodshot and the release of the Doug Sahm tribute, Son of Sahm in 2001, that the band began receiving its overdue credit in the eyes of the press. It took five long years before The Bottle Rockets followed it up with Zoysia but fans eagerly devoured the new material. Now, we’re given Lean Forward and the band has come full circle. The album finds Henneman and company tapping into the punk and hard rock influences that were his, Tweedy, and Farrar’s calling cards in the infancy of their friendship. The Bottle Rockets have always been the boys ready to belly up to the bar after leaving it all onstage — we’re just thankful they’re still doing it with a mighty roar as another decade passes with an unenthusiastic whimper.
The Bottle Rockets will be hitting every juke joint that will have ‘em in the coming months, and just one look at the group’s MySpace page will make local fans giddy with anticipation for October 2nd, when The Bottle Rockets invade The Tractor Tavern. Grab a glass, pour yourself two fingers of cheap whiskey, and enjoy the wait along with the live video for “Get Down River”: