Hillbilly Highway – Bottle Rockets reissues



by Sheldon Birnie 

Jesus rip-roarin’ Christ, how come nobody told me about the Bottle Rockets until today? Has my head been so far up my ass that maybe somebody did tell me, and I either forgot or didn’t bother to check them out? What the sweet fuck?

Josh down at Bloodshot Records in the Windy City sent me an email this morning asking me, essentially, why I’d slept on an earlier email regarding Bloodshot’s reissues of the St Louis, MO, roots rockers’ first two albums. I honestly can’t recall reading his first email, which leads me to believe that my head has indeed been up my ass for quite some time.

The Bottle Rockets came out of Missouri roaring in the early 1990s, setting the stage for the roots rock scene — Drive-By Truckers, Lucero, Old 97s, Jonny Fritz, et al —  I dig so much today, 20+ years down the line. I wasn’t two tunes into their self-titled 1993 debut when I said to myself, “Sweet fuck, this shit is pure gold!”

Singing about classic heartland themes of small town despair, boozing, drugging, grinding the gears, all set to a soundtrack as much inspired by Springsteen as the Clash, this kinda stuff sounds the way Mellencamp’s Scarecrow would have sounded like if Sub Pop had put it out and the Coug didn’t give two-shits about Top 40 hits.

Their 1994 follow up  The Brooklyn Side — rereleased by a major label in 1995 — picks up where the eponymous debut left off, cranking the grit up to 11 with Crazy Horse inspired rockers and rustic Americana ditties about welfare queens and sunday afternoon football.

Both of these recent reissues comes chock full of what you’d expect from 20th anniversary reissues: demos, alternate takes, and live tracks. While these are awesome add ons, and vital for completists, simply introducing this great catalogue of music to young(ish) fans is worth its weight in gold. I can’t stop giving my goddamn head a shake that I wasn’t hip to this shit years ago. I guess I got some making up for lost time to do? I’d suggest you do the same.


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