ReviewsTwangin'!

Bottle Rockets

24 Hours a Day
Atlantic 83015-2

Brian Henneman (acoustic & electric guitars, vocals) Tom Parr (acoustic and electric guitar) Tom V. Ray (acoustic and electric bass) Mark Ortmann (drums, percussion)

With: Eric "Roscoe" Ambel (guitars, pianos, organ, percussion, vocals) Joe Flood (fiddle, 5-string acoustic, mandolin, gut banjo) Jeremy Tepper (harmonica) Jay Sherman-Godfrey (cello) Jim Duffey (organ) Andy York (organ, vocal)

Kit Kat Clock / When I was Dumb / 24 Hours a Day / Smokin' 100's Alone / Slo Toms / Indianapolis / Things You Didn't Know / One Of You / Perfect Far Away / Waitin' On A Train / Dohack Joe / Rich Man / Turn for the Worse

I have been excited about this CD for months. I couldn't wait for it to hit the streets. This was to be the CD that put the Bottle Rockets and Festus, Missouri on the maps. I had received a Studio Mix bootleg about a year or more ago from a guy that I had once done a favor for. That cassette tape was a rough version of as perfect an album as I had ever heard. I have been telling everyone..."Wait until you hear the new Bottle Rockets CD, It will knock you out! It's mighty fine, mighty fine indeed." And I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting. I was told to keep the cassette close to my vest and guard it with my life, that it wasn't for public consumption, and that folks knew where I lived. Meanwhile, Tag Records, who the Bottle Rockets were signed with, was absorbed by Atlantic. And then Atlantic went through its office staff and artist roster with a chain saw and a gun. No one knew what the future held for the Bottle Rockets. Flirting with bankruptcy, off the road for 14 months, no new album in sight, and waiting and wondering. Brian kept writing songs. And we kept waiting.

Then one day it finally comes out! 24 Hours a Day is the best CD that the Bottle Rockets have put out so far. Their first CD, the self-titled East Side Digital release, was great. Their second record, The Brooklyn Side released on Tag Records, was even better. And 24 Hours a Day is the best yet. It's a great disc. But It ain't as good as I hoped it would be. It seems too polished, too produced. It lacks the power of their live shows. It lacks the sheer, "What The Hell, Let's Go For It" gusto and lunacy that are the Bottle Rockets.

Brian Henneman is a prolific songwriter. The Bottle Rockets had enough material to make three or four CDs. But could only make one. What stays? What goes? And remember that they're on a Major label now. That means Hit Singles and Air Play. If you don't have a few number one singles from your CD, you will be dropped faster than a cheap prom dress. And then you have the record company suits standing over your shoulder saying things like "This doesn't seem to fit within our research groups projected demographics." "What Radio format is this?" But the Bottle Rockets don't care about format, demographics, or labels. All they care about is making music and having a good time.

24 Hours a Day is radio friendly. But that doesn't mean that it will be embraced by radio. Which is a damn shame. The Bottle Rockets play honest music. They can rock, they can honky tonk, they can punk out, and they can play Old Time and Bluegrass. But it's honest stuff. This ain't rich cat, riding around in a limo, drinking perrier music. This is busting your ass at the Chrystler plant, coming home, paying the light bill, and finding out that you have enough money to take your wo-man out to the VFW for a few Stag beers on Saturday night music.

Some songs that were originally planned for the CD didn't make the final cut. "Get Down" didn't make it, but it's available on a Bloodshot Records Insurgent Country compilation. "Get Down" is a song about living in a River town, and the feeling you get when you wake up in the morning to find out that a 30-pound catfish has taken up residence in your living room because it's been raining for a week and the river decided to drop by last night and say howdy. "Financing His Romance" was another killer song that didn't make the final grade, a song about this guy who is in love with the barroom owner's woman. He keeps hanging out in the bar, drinking, infatuated with the woman he can't have. Financing a romance that he wants for his own.

24 Hours a Day starts off with "Kit Kat Clock," about that clock that must be issued in Grandma bootcamp. Seems that every Grandma has one hanging up in her kitchen. "24 Hours A Day" is a love song. Either that or a theme song for stalkers. Both pretty good songs. But right about about Track 4, this CD really kicks it in the ass and gets great. "Smoking 100's Alone" is about a woman who throws her deadbeat man out, and then sits around missing him wondering if he is coming back. "Slo-Toms" is a song about the neighborhood tavern and its importance as the center of the universe. "Indianapolis" is a song written when Henneman was a roadie with Uncle Tupelo, a wry comment on being broke down miles from anything or anyone familiar. Four hours from home can be as far away as Mars sometimes. Recorded at Mike Wanchic's studio, guitar player for The Coug', the CD even features the famous "Jack and Diane" guitar. The Coug himself gets a mention at the end.

"Things You Didn't Know" is a a beautiful ballad and love song. "One Of You" is about staying past last call, seeing double, and counting on the wo-man to get you home again. And about how the love bubbles to the surface when you're drunk. "Perfect Far Away" is a tune from the pre-Bottle Rockets band Chicken Truck, written by Henneman after a Dolly Parton concert. "Waitin on a Train" steals its first line from the Johnny Cash and June Carter hit "Jackson" -- "We got married in a fever" -- but this isn't a love song. It's a song about the frustrations of being a single dad, and busting your ass to try and get by. "Rich Man" has a Bluegrassy Old Timey stomp feel to it.

The disc closes with it's strongest tune, The pure honky-tonk of "Turn For The Worse," a song about the rollercoaster of love, and about how some of us get motion sickness on rollercoasters and some of us know we are going to be sick before we even get on the damn thing. But we buy our ticket and we get on anyway. Ain't love a bitch?

As great a disc as this is, It pales in comparison to the Bottle Rockets live show. If you get the chance to go see them, do it. Even if it takes a five-hour drive and you have to call into work stupid the next day. Go see them in a tavern. Not an arena or in a coffee house. The VFW would be best. They are a working class band who belong in working class clubs. And don't scream out a request for "Free Bird", although they might play "Gimme Back My Bullets" if you buy them a beer.

But Pick up the disc. And while you are at the music store, pick up their first two releases too. And then stop off at the package store and get yourself a 12-pack of Stag. Put the CDs in the stereo, hug yah wo-man tight and enjoy some real fine music. Mighty fine indeed. After all those years of having to listen to the crap that they force down your throat and call music on mainstream radio, you owe it to yourself.

--Jeff Wall




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