Somewhere betwen my discovery of Bloodshot Records in 2002 (Neko Case, though she’d just left the label; Kelly Hogan; the Waco Brothers; Rex Hobert & the Misery Boys) and my current dig through Robbie Fulks and Scott H. Biram’s extensive back catalogs, I spent a lot of time trolling used CD bins at record stores for copies of Bloodshot releases I didn’t already own, which is how I came to have in my possession the long out-of-print original pressings of the Bottle Rockets’ The Brooklyn Side and debut self-titled. They were in my mid-period Bloodshot discovery phase, when I was comfortable and familiar with the label, but before I started sending in-house publicist Josh emails full of all caps excitement, and they never quite resonated with me the way my earliest discoveries did, or current Bloodshot movers and shakers Ha Ha Tonka and Justin Townes Earle do. (I feel the same way about Split Lip Rayfield, which we can also discuss in the comments if you need to.)
I bought those used copies of The Bottle Rockets and The Brooklyn Side, and I liked them, but I never fell in love. Not then.
This year, the Bottle Rockets are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of that first self-titled, and in honor they’re doing deluxe Bloodshot re-releases of those two long out of print albums. So I’ve gone back to my mp3 copies of those two records, the original ones that I ripped from scratched CDs, and the stream of the newly remastered re-issues, and what I’m realizing is the same thing that I realized with Robbie Fulks’ new album this year (I haven’t written about it yet, and, yes, I feel guilty about it): I should have loved the Bottle Rockets all along, and I do, now. There’s no reason for me not to, and about a thousand that should have swayed me. They didn’t move me before this, and I’ve lost loads of good years with this band. Maybe you have, too; maybe when you think of the birth of Americana, you think of the Uncle Tupelo and then you think of Whiskeytown, which is fair. The Bottle Rockets were there, too, though — loud and talented, smart rock and roll with great playing and dedication to what they were doing and not what anyone thought of them.
They still make smart, talented, loud rock and roll, and they still don’t give a fuck what you think of them.
Check out the ’91 demo of “Indianapolis”, featuring Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar (then of Uncle Tupelo, now respectively of Wilco and Son Volt), below, and the release info from Bloodshot here.
(As always, my Bloodshot disclaimer is that I have a longstanding deeply loving relationship with the label and its people and its bands, which you can check out in these posts, but all these opinions are mine. I like writing about Bloodshot releases because I get to tell stories, and because they make good music.)