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Bottle Rockets
24 Hours a Day,  Atlantic CD 83015, 1997

 Maybe more rock than country

The Bottle Rockets make their major label debut with  24 Hours a Day, following two well-received indie releases. The Rockets produce a mainstream southern- and country-tinged brand of guitar pop that somehow sounds remarkably fresh. The weird divisions that separate country from rock probably place them in the latter camp, with guitars crunching a bit harder, the twangy vocals drifting slightly toward the ironic, and considerable fun and pep brought to the whole affair. The punchy, funny songs recall the Georgia Satellites, or perhaps the goofier side of Neil Young.

There’s quite a mixture of styles on the album. There was a time when a song like "When I Was Dumb" would be in medium rotation on any Top 40 AM radio station. It’s a short unpretentious bit of pure pop, complete with chiming guitars and lyrics of teenage regret. A few songs, like "Things You Didn’t Know" and "Slo Tom’s," overindulge the guitar hero thing, but in most cases all elements are kept in a careful balance.

There’s a lyrical balance as well. "Indianapolis" is a cute mid-tempo rocker about being "stuck in Indianapolis with a fuel pump that’s deceased"–and fearing for your life because of the local citizens. There are also evocative ballads, and crunchers that could have come right out of the Lynyrd Skynyrd songbook. Two peculiar touches appear towards the end of the album. "Waitin’ on a Train" rather pointlessly reprises the famous "we were married in a fever" opening phrase of Johnny Cash and June Carter’s hit "Jackson," then does nothing with it. The closer "Turn for the Worse" does a bit more with Buddy Holly’s "Everyday" chorus, extending the "every minute we’re a gettin’ closer, going faster than a roller coaster" metaphor into a loping, drunken ride.

Despite, or maybe because of, these idiosyncrasies, the Bottle Rockets have earned their spot on my CD tray. I’ve played  24 Hours a Day many times over the past few weeks, which is saying something in this era of play it and forget it music.– Bill Kuhn


The Bottle Rockets: Brian Henneman, vocals, acoustic guitar, guitar; Tom Parr, vocals, guitar; Tom V. Ray, bass; Mark Ortmann, drums, handclaps, sleigh bells, percussion.

Additional personnel: Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, vocals, guitar, piano, organ, melotron, tambourine, sleigh bells, percussion, claps; Andy York, vocals, organ; Joe Flood, 5-string acoustic guitar, gut-banjo, mandolin, fiddle, background vocals; Jack, Diane, guitar; Jay Sherman-Godfrey, cello; Jeremy Tepper, harmonica; Jim Duffy, organ.


Recorded at Echo Park Studio, Bloomington, Indiana; Coyote Recording Studio, Brooklyn, New York.

Copyright © 1998 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.