The Bottle Rockets

The Bottle Rockets

The Bottle Rockets' brand of populist, Midwestern, brawny rock 'n' roll is a sound so effortless, it's easy to take their craft for granted; a sound so universal, yet unmistakably THE BOTTLE ROCKETS. They've crushed rowdy Friday night crowds, convinced sitting audiences to get on their feet, and pulled weary festival onlookers across muddy fields to the front of the stage. With their 12th album, South Broadway Athletic Club, the quartet gives a master class in capturing the beauty of everyday life, and painting a portrait of ongoing hope.

South Broadway Athletic Club is an album full of new experiences for the band. Although they again worked with longtime producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel (of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, The Del-Lords, The Yayhoos) it was the first time the group recorded a full album in their hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Working at Sawhorse Studios, it was also the first time they scheduled sessions in batches over several months, allowing the songs - and the whole album - to fully breathe and unfold. The extended songwriting process not only allowed a gestation period for the music, but also created the opportunity for a new musical collaboration with the Nashville hit-songwriting family The Henningsens, resulting in the song "Something Good." These fresh directions helped focus the band's creativity and energy throughout the recording sessions, adding further dimension to the album.

Singer/guitarist Brian Henneman meticulously crafts lyric-chapters straight from his well-worn journal. The album's sharp-as-shit songwriting kicks off with "Monday (Everytime I Turn Around)," and the tough but tender "Big Lotsa Love." The latter is built on engaging wordplay that takes the listener through the ups and downs of working through the world with someone you care about. In "Dog," a jangly, Byrds-infused, unaffected but never cloying, tribute (with Henneman's new weapon of choice: a chimey, 12-string Rickenbacker) to a favorite canine, he sings, "I love my dog, he's my dog/ If you don't love my dog, that's OK/ I don't want you to, he's my dog." The zen-like wisdom transcends merely a song about a pet and, rather, packs the message and life philosophy that, "Sometimes life is just this simple."

Sonically, The Bottle Rockets still find the quickest two-lane highway into the bloodstream. There are pulses through the rhythm section of Mark Ortmann's made for FM radio, wall-of-sound drumming and bassist Keith Voegele's deep and shapely lines. They are Missouri's answer to Muscle Shoals' The Swampers – Swiss Army knife players, distinctive and in the pocket. It's honed further with John Horton's classic rock guitar snarl on "I Don't Wanna Know," a song that could otherwise be a Tom Jones classic about a relationship lie. On the speaker-rattling "Building Chryslers," Horton and Henneman ignite a crunchy guitar duel that'd fit nicely on the LP shelf between Dinosaur Jr and Thin Lizzy. The song is a compelling character study told only as The Bottle Rockets can.

Shimmering, fresh coats of paint are applied in "Ship It On the Frisco," a Southern soul-influenced song about childhood train hopping, and "XOYOU," which showcases the band's cosmopolitan touches through a Rockpile/Nick Lowe-inflected pop gem mixing in shuffling drums, handclaps and harmonies. Elsewhere, "Big Fat Nuthin'" is an earwormworthy "ode" to exhaustion with a Black Flag "TV Party" vibe.

Throughout their entire career, The Bottle Rockets have managed to stay true to the rabid music heads as well as casual dial-turning everybodies. After 20+ years, they've come out on the other side stronger and more energized than ever before, proactively writing their own creative arc. Against the odds, the Bottle Rockets are a true American success story. Consequently, South Broadway Athletic Club is an album as relevant as their formative early work; political by not being political, re-affirming our greatest aspirations by focusing on the tiniest of truths.

Lost + Found is an apt title for Hugh Masterson’s first solo effort, set for a June 2, 2017 release on Rock Ridge Music. The six songs cover a heartfelt journey through surviving loss and life changes while gaining self-awareness through experience. His self-deprecating way of viewing himself is endearing, and his songs are deeply personal. “I use songwriting as therapy,” he says. “I think other people will relate to these songs. Finding happiness daily is not an easy thing.”

Recorded at Key Club Recording Co. in Benton Harbor, Michigan, the album was co-produced by Masterson and Bill Skibbe, best known as engineer for The Black Keys, Dead Weather, The Kills, and many others. The duo succeeded in bringing Masterson’s own unique perspective to the Americana music he makes, his sound boasting a Midwestern bounce and jangle coupled with Nashville wail and grit. It’s easy, it’s familiar, it’s twangy-goodness, pedal-steel Southern rock; it’s a dusty ride down a road winding through rural Wisconsin or backwoods Tennessee.

Growing up in Butternut, Wisconsin, Masterson lived a very rural life in a tiny town: population (as of 2013) is 372. “There were no businesses, really, besides the gas station, a bakery, bars and taverns,” Masterson explains. “The bar was the meeting place. The parents would take the kids there so people could socialize and listen to whatever music was playing on the jukebox.” Their dad’s ultimate favorite was The Band, which was a constant in the Masterson household, along with the Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, along with John Hiatt and Lucinda Williams.

The first single, the title track “Lost + Found,” tells the story of Masterson getting mugged one night in Milwaukee. He was hit in the head with a tire iron and his jaw was broken in two places. I got beat up just walking around town/Hold my head up high still on the ground/ Don’t know why I came here/Don’t know what I’m fighting for. Masterson explains: “It’s about when you feel like you're not sure why things happen to you. You’re not sure how to navigate life the best way that you possibly can, because you're not seeing the signs that you need yet.”

Several years after the mugging, and following the death of his mother, Masterson made the move from Milwaukee to Nashville. Unbeknownst to him, this move would end up being the catalyst for the breakup of his band, Hugh Bob and the Hustle, who were starting to enjoy both industry and fan attention. Masterson was set on leaving Wisconsin while the rest of his band decided to stay put. “I had planned on moving to make a better opportunity for all of us,” Masterson says. “I just assumed everyone else was going to come with me… that was the plan. Then I got here and no one else showed up. Life changed.”

Masterson took quickly to the East Nashville music community, befriending a number of artists with whom he’s toured recently, such as The Lone Bellow, Margo Price, Nikki Lane, Anderson East and several others. Additionally, he’s drawn attention from the Americana Music Association, CMT, KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” Rolling Stone, World Café, and South by Southwest.

Even though he always felt music calling, Masterson is also a skilled woodworker, which is his creative and rewarding day job. “I’ve always liked working with my hands,” he explains. “Growing up where I did, if something broke, you fixed it. You figured it out somehow. I feel really calm when I have stuff to do with my hands.”

Masterson plans to hang up his woodworking tools long enough to hit the road to bring his intensely personal songs to a live audience later in the year. “Playing solo, I feel a responsibility to be captivating and keep people’s attention. I’m just trying to be entertaining, to have a decent message people can relate to, and to play good music.” With Lost + Found, Masterson is poised to achieve his goal of helping other people by sharing his own experiences. “I hope people can find something in these songs they can relate to, whether it be fun times or hardships.”

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