The Bottle Rockets
Sure, Stephen King lauded their previous studio album, Zoysia, but the Bottle Rockets‘ new lineup (Johnny Horton on guitar and Keith Voegele on bass) was just getting warmed up. Reunited with fan-favorite producer Eric Ambel (who has worked with the likes of Steve Earle and Nils Lofgren and is responsible for the Rockets’ breakout records The Brooklyn Side and 24 Hours a Day), this 15-year-old band from Festus, Missouri, is back with a blistering rock-and-roll record about survival, redemption and fighting your way forward. The music on Lean Forward ranges from fiery road-warrior guitar battles to swamp funk to simmering soul, but it all works together toward a vision of clear-eyed compassion, nowhere more breathtaking than on the halting meditation “The Kid Next Door,” a song about a neighbor whose “kick-ass stereo” has gone eternally silent. Playing an explosive (quite literally, they blew up the system) 21-song set on a double bill with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit earlier this fall in Illinois, these veterans showed themselves in top form — both lead singer and guitar slinger Brian Henneman and drummer Mark Ortmann sounded and looked better than they ever could have hoped in the early days. If you haven’t seen them in a while or if you’ve never seen them before, one thing is certain: You won’t want this night to end.