Marshall Crenshaw and The Bottle Rockets

Wednesday • Southgate House Revival

click to enlarge The Bottle Rockets
The Bottle Rockets

The show occurring at Southgate House Revival Wednesday night is

more than just a Roots Rock/Americana marriage made in heaven. It’s downright Rock & Roll nirvana. 

The Bottle Rockets, a great American band finally getting its due, opens the show and then serves as backup for Marshall Crenshaw, singer/songwriter and melodic rocker par excellence.

From Festus, Mo., The Bottle Rockets had as much to do with the rise of Americana as Uncle Tupelo. Formed in 1992, its first two albums, that year’s Bottle Rockets and 1994’s The Brooklyn Side, really seemed to have it all, even an Alt Rock single that got airplay, “Radar Gun.”

The quartet’s records had a rustic, down-home, rave-up quality — traditional but edgy — that gave off bright sparks with its combination of Country music licks, classic Folk Rock chording and acoustic texturing and loud celebratory guitar solos, all in service of the songs. And the compositions had wit and heart, observant about working-class life and sung with a plaintive urgency worthy of Springsteen, sometimes delivered with a bit of a Southern flavor.

But with years of record-company hassles and personnel changes, The Bottle Rockets seemed to lose their momentum and — while soldiering on to appreciative fans — never got the credit they deserved. However, late last year Bloodshot Records released a re-mastered, two-CD deluxe reissue of the two out-of-print early albums.

The package contains 19 extra, previously unreleased tracks and a 40-page booklet with contributions from Steve Earle, Patterson Hood and Lucinda Williams. The current Bottle Rockets lineup, which features original members Brian Henneman (guitar and vocals) and Mark Ortmann (drums), has been out touring to show how well this material has aged.

“Since our first two albums have been out of print for so long, it’s been fun to reintroduce them to old and new fans alike — especially many of the rare bonus tracks,” Ortmann says via e-mail. “Fans have been excited to have these albums in circulation again. But it’s also been fun for the band to be reintroduced to those albums because even though we still perform many of those songs live, we haven’t listened to the album versions in ages. It’s been nostalgic, like looking through a yearbook.”

If that were all the Southgate House show was, it would be enough. But after finishing their set, The Bottle Rockets will support Crenshaw. His 1982 self-titled debut remains a zenith of New Wave and Power Pop with its economically constructed guitar-based Rock and songs that were modern but conjured memories of Buddy Holly and the early Beatles. It yielded enduring classics like “Someday, Someway,” “The Usual Thing” and “Cynical Girl.” His songs are romantic and sweet, but he also has a sense of humor — one of his live albums is called I’ve Suffered for My Art … Now It’s Your Turn.

Crenshaw has stayed busy in the music business, if never reaching the superstar level predicted by his debut. (He’s had record company issues of his own.) Crenshaw has steadily released solo albums, co-wrote the Gin Blossoms’ hit “’Til I Hear It From You,” toured with a revived version of the MC5 (like Crenshaw, from Detroit) and hosted a radio show, The Bottomless Pit, on New York station WFUV.

Lately, he has turned to Kickstarter to finance a series of vinyl EPs, sold through his website. The latest, Driving and Dreaming, includes a new version of “Someday, Someway” and a cover of Bobby Fuller Four’s “Never to Be Forgotten.”

“It’s an absolute blast playing as Marshall Crenshaw’s band,” Ortmann says. “Not only is he a great guy to work with, but his music is challenging, fun and rewarding to play. He’s such an impressive songwriter and guitarist, and his catalog is so vast. It’s a treat performing all those wonderful songs.”


MARSHALL CRENSHAW and THE BOTTLE ROCKETS perform at Newport's Southgate House Revival Wednesday, Feb. 26. Find tickets and more info here .



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