Ten years ago, I was a college senior in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the height of the alt-country boom. The Twin Cities was a big alt-country town, and it seemed like everyone I knew claimed Uncle Tupelo (which had, by then, split into Son Volt and Wilco) as one of their favorite bands. I was no different.
The Bottle Rockets, from Festus, Missouri, were Uncle Tupelo protégés at the time, touring in support of their second (and best) album, The Brooklyn Side. At the time, the Bottle Rockets were thought to be Uncle Tupelo's less significant little brothers; a fun little band, but not important.
Ten years later, my opinion of the two bands has changed. Uncle Tupelo is still more commanding musically, balancing Jay Farrar's grizzled baritone with Jeff Tweedy's plaintive yelp atop guitars a lot more indie-rock than country. But the Bottle Rockets' worldview feels truer, more meaningful, and their good humor more generous and grounded in experience. Uncle Tupelo evokes Gram Parsons. The Bottle Rockets evoke Hank Williams Jr., John Anderson, and Tom T. Hall. Uncle Tupelo sounds like a concept dreamed up by a couple of kids who didn't make many stops between their bedroom stereo and the local rock club, spinning hard-drinking, working-week clichés they learned from other records. The Bottle Rockets sound like they'd spent some time poking around their hometown. The cassette-tape-buying "welfare queens," cheap used cars, and Sunday sports fiends they sing about sound a lot more like the small town I grew up in than the graveyard shifters Uncle Tupelo lamented. Both bands evoked the classic-rock Americana of Bruce Springsteen, but Uncle Tupelo was more Nebraska while the Bottle Rockets were Born in the USA. Ten years ago, I preferred Nebraska. Now I know better.
The Bottle Rockets will be at the Hi-Tone Café Friday, August 12th, with Glossary and Halfacre Gunroom. - Chris Herrington
John Michael McCarthy, the Elvis-obsessed king of Memphis "B" movies, is hosting his annual Death Week party at Murphy's on Tuesday, August 16th. Sun Sik, an '80s-style goth band fronted by Mick Walker (aka Eldorado Del Rey from the Ruckus) will play their first and (inside sources suggest) last show. Bad-girl rockers The Zippin Pippins, who do quite a few mean Elvis covers, will also be on hand. To celebrate all things Elvis, McCarthy will tip the hat to Presley's famous clothiers by screening Irvin Lansky's old vacation movies.
The first time I heard The Mystery Girls' song "Autumn Turns to Fall," I thought it sounded like a fusion of Cream's "White Room" and "Sunshine of Your Love" played in double-time with an infectious sing-along chorus that gets in your head and won't let go. If there was another song on the record, I didn't know or care: That was my song, and I played it over and over for months. As it happens, the Mystery Girls - who will please fans of Spaceman 3 with their blend of Brit pop and '60s R&B - have many more songs, and most of them are worth listening to over and over. They're at the Buccaneer on Friday, August 12th, with The Preacher's Kids. If you like your guitar rock nasty around the edges (and don't we all?), this is the show to see. - Chris Davis
Sometimes dreams really do come true. At least, that's been the case for Japanese blues duo The Blind Lemon Brothers.
When they performed on Japanese television a few weeks ago, they had no idea who was watching. After their set, an interviewer asked one of the Brothers (actually a father and son team) what they wanted to do next. "I want to play on Beale Street, Memphis U.S.A.," one of them said.
Fortunately for them, Memphis sushi guru Jimmy Ishii, founder of the Sekisui restaurants, was visiting Japan, and he just happened to catch the remark while watching TV at his mom's house. He purchased their CD, which turned out to be raspy blues with a hint of soul backed up by harmonica and guitar. When Ishii returned to Memphis, he contacted Coldwater Productions in Missouri, an agency that books many blues shows on Beale Street. They liked the band's sound, especially the lyrics, which are sung phonetically in broken English. They contacted the band and a show was quickly booked at B.B. King's for Monday, August 15th. - Bianca Phillips