The pairing of the Bottle Rockets and Bobby Bare Jr. isn't just a convenient coupling of Bloodshot Records labelmates. The two scruffy roots-rock outfits are cut from similar cloth. Bare Jr. (son of a Nashville insider-outsider) and BotRox frontman Brian Henneman (onetime Uncle Tupelo roadie) are comfortable playing both clown prince and philosopher king of the alt-country scene. Each group's albums juggle dark-hued satire and lovesick self-deprecation with moments of heartfelt sentiment and insightful observation.
Bare Jr. can toss off a comic slacker anthem like "Why Do I Need a Job?", but in a tune like "Flat Chested Girl From Maynardville," he shows that he can avoid the easy joke to create something far more moving. Similarly, the BotRox built their cult following on smart-funny blue-collar rave-ups like "1000 Dollar Car" and "Radar Gun."
But on the title track to the just-released Zoysia, Henneman demonstrates his skill in some rather subtle political commentary. While talking about his "out-in-the-sticks-and-conservative" town, he reveals that "The guy next door/His signs aren't like mine/But he's all right/And we get along fine." And by the way, neither act is your staid, banjo-plunking, No Depression type. They both crank up the guitars and have a good time. So will you.