Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Blue Sky

Midwestern roots-rockers return to sharp form on seventh album

Thirty seconds into the first album of new Bottle Rockets songs in four years, Brian Henneman revs from acoustic-and-harmonica to full-band hook as he delivers a punch line in his plain, twangy Missouri drawl: "I fell down so here I lay/Got the workman's comp, so everything's OK." That's their signature: good tunes Americana-style, driving home everyday details few songwriters notice. Although produced by Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes, they rock less these days, with folk tinges aplenty. But not since 1995's The Brooklyn Side has their material been quite this sharp. And if they can occasionally be corny--"Men & Women" could have come straight off the Nashville production line--the song about how September 11 compelled lovers to kiss at the baggage claim has their name on it.

Blender, Dec. 2003