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Album Review

In 2002, guitarist Tom Parr dropped out of the Bottle Rockets while they were touring in support of their Doug Sahm tribute disc, Songs of Sahm, and while their rough-hewn roadhouse rock & roll (with a country twang around the edges) had been the focal point of previous albums, their first set as a three-piece, Blue Sky, finds Brian Henneman and his pals turning down the amps and aiming for a quieter, more rootsy sound. With Henneman handling the guitar duties by his lonesome on most cuts (co-producer and Gov't Mule frontman Warren Haynes pitches in on a few songs, as does former Blood Oranges axeman Mark Spencer), Blue Sky aims for a laid-back vibe that's much more country than rock, and with a bit more polish, it's not hard to imagine easygoing tunes like "Men & Women," "Man of Constant Anxiety," or the title cut finding a happy home on country radio with their simple hooks and regular-guy philosophy. But that's not to say Henneman's gone soft, or that Blue Sky is meek or toothless; "Lucky Break"'s tale of a guy who's finally getting a vacation thanks to workman's comp after breaking his leg is certainly the work of the same guy who wrote "Welfare Music," "Baggage Claim" is an affecting snapshot of how life has changed in the wake of September 11, 2001, and "Mom & Dad" is a moving portrait of a grown man dealing with the loss of his parents. "Pretty Little Angie" and "I.D. Blues" also prove that the BoRox can still rock on out when the spirit moves them, though "I Don't Wanna Go Back" and "The Last Time" make it clear that bassist Robert Kearns isn't up to Henneman's standard as a singer or songwriter just yet. All in all, Blue Sky is certainly a changeup from what the Bottle Rockets have done on record in the past, but if they lack the old sound and fury, their heart and soul remain intact.


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 of...
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Blue Sky, The Bottle Rockets
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