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Not So Loud: An Acoustic Evening With The Bottle Rockets

The Bottle Rockets

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Album Review

Prior to the rise of the Drive-By Truckers, the Bottle Rockets were one of the few bands on the alt-country scene who seemed to sincerely and openly follow the teachings of Lynyrd Skynyrd, both in their plain-spoken, smarter-than-you'd-think songwriting and their belief in the curative powers of big rock pumped through big amps. However, the BoRox take a vacation from the latter part of that formula on Not So Loud: An Acoustic Evening with the Bottle Rockets, and it demonstrates just how strong those songs happen to be. Not So Loud was recorded during a pair of special shows the band staged in their hometown of St. Louis in 2007; here Brian Henneman swaps his Les Paul for a banjo, John Horton picks an acoustic guitar and a mandolin, Keith Voegele plays an upright bass, and Mark Ortmann pared his drum kit down to a snare, a bass, and a hi-hat. While Henneman's voice is still craggy enough that the character of the songs doesn't change radically, he shows noticeably more nuance in these performances, and where "Kit Kat Clock" sounded jaunty and "Perfect Far Away" felt bitter in their full-on studio recordings, in this context the emotions are more complicated, and that works to their favor. The twists in the tales of "Lucky Break," "Smoking 100's Alone," and "One of You" cuts a bit deeper in these more subdued arrangements, and the musicians rise to the challenge of working at a lower volume, sounding tight and emphatic, and enjoying using a different range of colors than in their traditional lineup. Given that a number of the Bottle Rockets' early albums are out of print, Not So Loud gives a number of songs a new lease on life after years in limbo. Not So Loud is a change of pace for the Bottle Rockets, and while it's not necessarily a better direction for them than their usual swaggering rock & roll, they can clearly turn off their amps and still sound like one of the strongest bands to come from the '90s alt-country scene, and it speaks well for their future.

Biography

Formed: 1992 in Festus, MO

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Festus, Missouri's Bottle Rockets ranked as one of the leading lights of the 1990s roots rock revival, thanks to a sound that bypassed the punk heritage proudly upheld by most of the band's contemporaries in favor of a redneck fusion of Southern boogie, country-folk, and crunching rock & roll. The group was fronted by singer/guitarist Brian Henneman, a Missouri native who formed his first band, Waylon Van Halen & the Ernest Tubbadours, in 1977 with friends Tom and Bob Parr. After a succession...
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Not So Loud: An Acoustic Evening With The Bottle Rockets, The Bottle Rockets
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