St Louis, Missouri alt/country dudes The Bottle Rockets return with their 13th long player, the follow up to 2015 album ‘South Broadway Athletic Club’, and it’s got a bit of a theme going on. The frustrations of modern life and technology are explored by main man Brian Henneman and his band of outlaws; John Horton on guitar, Mark Ortmann on drums and Keith Voegele on bass.
Recorded in 3 separate 4-day studio sessions, in their native St Louis with long-time collaborator Eric Ambel at the production helm, ‘Bit Logic’ sees a more collaborative approach than the last album which was primarily written by Henneman.
‘Bit Logic’ is an album that’s rich in Americana, simple honest songwriting and observations of the modern world. For me, the Tom Petty and Dan Baird feels are all over this album. From the cool as you like groove of ‘Doomsday Letter’, to the acoustic-based chillax that is ‘Saxophone,’ onto the simple observation of a pretty girl in ‘Human Perfection’, there is much to savor.
“My music’s good but my income sucks” drawls Hanneman on ‘Bad Time to Be an Outlaw’ and that pretty much sums the situation up. I mean, Outlaw Country has never sounded so current in 2018. Albums by the likes of Sarah Shook & The Disarmers and Hellbound Glory are certainly doing it for me right now. And while Nashville’s pop-obsessed hipsters continue to churn out meaningless, over-produced drivel, a small band of outlaws are keeping it real, writing and singing about how fucked up things are and touring their asses off across the world, playing bars to every man and his dog that will sip a beer and be content to listen to a good tune or two.
The Bottle Rockets have been doing it for nigh on 30 years and Brian Hanneman has every right to come across as a grumpy old man. Lyrically, he always tells it like it is and ‘Bit Logic’ is no different. Whether he’s complaining about the traffic on ‘Highway 70 Blues’, admitting he’s resorted to listening to music on his telephone rather than enjoying the glorious tones of his old vinyl collection on ‘Lo-Fi’, or simply reminiscing about simpler times, there’s a ‘no bullshit’ approach to The Bottle Rockets music.
Yet, he’s trying to embrace the modern world, he truly is. “You better be looking out the windshield, not the rear-view mirror” drawls Hanneman in the opening title track to assure the listener of his intentions to move forward in every sense.
Elsewhere he is full of sentiment. ‘Lo-Fi’ transports the listener back to simpler times, with just an AM radio and the muddy river banks for company. Laid-back, countrified goodness with picked guitars, a fuzzy solo and Hammond accompaniment. ‘Knotty Pine’ is pure, old-school country, laced with John Horton’s twangy Telecaster licks. An ode to Hannemen’s songwriting retreat. “That room gives me hugs better than drugs” he quips.
With an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude, The Bottle Rockets release yet another collection of mighty fine songs that will be a welcome addition to any collection. These countrified outlaws are tough, gritty survivors, and while The Bottle Rockets will never be embraced by Nashville, (would they want that anyway?) or mainstream radio, they will continue to keep it real, tour and produce music from the heart and soul. Now, get down to your local independent record store and ask them for the new album with Clint Eastwood on the cover!