With all due respect to Nelly, the Bottle Rockets are the St. Louis area's best musical ambassadors and finest portraitists. The band has created a Macondo of the Midwest, populated with radar-crazed cops, dive-bar country queens, friends doing time for possession or DWIs, Tilt-a-Whirl riders, young lovers hanging at the DQ, Confederate-flag-waving hosses, moms on welfare, gearheads kicking $1,000 cars and divorcées contemplating passing trains. It's a real place, never sentimental. But it's magical, too: With guitars cranked to 11 and a rhythm section rumbling like a slant-six stoked on STP, everything seems possible and the Stag goes down like nectar.
You never know when those working-class stiffs and dreamers will get lucky. And you never know when the Bottle Rockets will surprise you. Even the mostly disappointing Brand New Year had the scorching ode to Nancy Sinatra, and the group's latest record, Songs of Sahm (Bloodshot) revives some of Doug Sahm's lesser-known tunes with a whole lot of Festus soul. The Bottle Rockets are as honest and unpretentious with those songs as they are with the Midwest underclass. They don't shy away from Sahm's hippie spirit, and they rock "I'm Not That Kat Anymore" and "You Can't Hide a Redneck (Underneath That Hippie Hair)" like no other band could. Onstage, their magically real Midwest world comes to hell's-bells rock & roll life, and you do not want to miss it.