REVIEW: Bottle Rockets Kick It Up a Reflective Country Notch in “Bit Logic”


The Bottle Rockets’ hotly anticipated album Bit Logic (Bloodshot Records) is due out tomorrow, and we guarantee this one will excite your decoder instincts while you kick back and enjoy its rollicking musical layers. Band members Brian Henneman,  John Horton, Keith Voegele, and Mark Ortmann deliver at their expected high quality playing standard. Recorded at Sawhorse Studios, produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, and mixed by Mario Viele, the album has a decidedly countrified flair while lyrically it considers the contradistinctions between life 40 years ago and our current state of affairs.

The opening title track is as catchy as they come, with an honest, throw your hands in the air confrontation of the changes that have taken place since the 1970’s “technicolor incandescent dreams” evolved into our bit logic, data driven contemporary circumstances. The concluding comment is that:  “this science ain’t no fiction, it’s the new way of keeping it real.”

Having cast down that gauntlet, the country throwback metaphors and comparisons between the 70’s and now continue throughout the album, from Memphis in ’72, to the song entitled “Lo-Fi” (with punctuated fuzzy effects and Hammond organ riffs); to a farmer with a trailer full of hay on “Highway 70 Blues,” (with its intricate guitar solo and classic country guitar tones) contrasted to the driver in a very modern Kia. And then there’s the nod to “Stovall’s Grove,” the renowned mid-western honky tonk in Missouri that’s been in business since 1935 and had its heydey in the ’70s but is still absolutely thriving today.

Given the focus on all things “southern” in alt-country and Americana music, it’s apt that there are southern references in abundance too as the analysis of what works and succeeds today continues. Musical success for an outlaw country band can take place where the cotton fields bloom in “Bad Time To Be An Outlaw:”  “This kind of music don’t make it big, but when cotton’s tall it’s outta sight to know you’re doing something right.” This is another statement on the changing times, and while the integrity of prioritizing outlaw country over “Nashville pop” (which “is not my deal…”) is valued,  the reality of its decidedly smaller financial payoff is simultaneously lamented.

Brian Henneman reports that the only two guitars he used on the album were his era-appropriate 1966 Gibson Hummingbird, and his 1974 Gibson L6s (mentioned in the song “Knotty Pine”).   And man, they sound good. John Horton’s leads rip from start to finish with his signature tones. The sound throughout is more fluid and less jarring than some of their recent albums, with a production quality that’s layered, clear and true — with nobody ever stepping on anybody’s toes. The vocal harmonies are relaxed, spontaneous, and live, especially in “Maybe Tomorrow.”  For a band, and a producer, who have often highlighted their rock ‘n roll prowesses, this album veers hard toward earlier country and represents a nimble versatility and a dexterous ability to take on new directions.

Note, too, the album was mastered by 5 time GRAMMY award winning Richard Dodd (Tom Petty’s Wallflowers).  Find more great lyrical wordplay, and the good music to carry it home, get your copy and check for tour dates, here:

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