[Reviews by Bill Glahn. I've been working on these on and off over the last year, but never finished up due to other writing projects. These are two of the best releases with many more to come in the next week.]
Bottle Rockets: Bit Logic (2018) From the git-go, Bit Logic finds Brian Henneman (age 57) ruminating about this modern world of technology on the title track. “This ain’t no high tech train wreck, don’t think that’s the deal… It’s the new way of keeping it real,” sings Henneman, painting a somewhat positive landscape. “Be thankful that this old machine still runs, even on these zeros, bits, and ones.” But it’s a landscape pitted with caveats.
“Lo Fi” takes the listener on a journey from the AM kitchen radio, through the wide expanse of home stereo systems, and full circle to listening to music on the telephone. And regardless of the limitations of modern music delivery, a great song can still make his day.
For the Bottle Rockets, though, a band that has built a following on the fringes of rock ‘n’ roll and country with solid albums and relentless touring, the new world has placed some substantial road blocks. Henneman addresses these on the metaphorical “Highway 70 Blues” and the more direct “It’s A Bad Time To Be An Outlaw.” How this will play out in the end is an open question. Will streaming services (the most common form of listening among young folks) cut out the passing lanes for inventive songwriting and performing? Will the pittance of income derived from streaming make it increasingly hard for upstart bands to expand their touring schedules beyond local or regional venues?
Henneman, a master lyricist with a remarkably durable band, has already built a foundation for continuing onward. But there’s that nagging question – “Will such future songwriters/bands ever see that chance?” Maybe. But it’ll be a much longer, slower, road where durability may end up being the most important component. Welcome to the new wave of heavy mettle. (A)
Grayson Capps: Scarlet Roses (2017) Part swamp, part Nashville, part Red Dirt, part outlaw, with some southern rock mixed in, Grayson Capps has the kind of voice that holds it all together as a cohesive voice of rural America. Although it takes a little longer to warm up to than Capp’s 2012 masterpiece, The Lost Cause Minstrels, it is an equally worthy effort, exploring some new musical directions. Topically, all the fears, hopes, and trials of rural America continue to find their way into Capp’s lyrics. Both albums are worthwhile companions to Muswell Hillbillies, The Kinks most Americana-sounding album – a statement on the fears, hopes and trials of urban England.
Capps hails from Fairhope, Alabama, a town located on the east side of Mobile Bay, and one with a rather unique history, having been set up as a socialist experiment in the late 1800s. From Wikipedia… “Their corporate constitution explained their purpose in founding a new colony: to establish and conduct a model community or colony, free from all forms of private monopoly, and to secure to its members therein equality of opportunity, the full reward of individual efforts, and the benefits of co-operation in matters of general concern." How well they’ve succeeded is questionable. Capps concludes Scarlet Roses with “Moving On,” a song that recognizes that. The search for a better future continues.