Influential Alt-Country Band The Bottle Rockets Calls It Quits

After nearly 3 decades of service and eleven studio albums, the influential and wickedly fun alt-country outfit The Bottle Rockets are officially calling it quits. The news comes as the band’s front man, guitarist, and songwriter Brian Henneman has decided to move on. As one of only two original members that was left in the band along with drummer Mark Ortmann, the band officially decided to break up.

“This is a difficult and emotional outcome for the band, and we share the sense of loss over this ending, but it can also be framed as an opportunity for new directions,” the band said in a joint statement on Tuesday, March 2nd. “We appreciate our fans, many who have become dear friends over the years, and we thank you for the wonderful 28-year adventure. It was a thrill and we couldn’t have asked for better people to share it with! We sincerely couldn’t have done it without your loyal support—the music lives on through you.”

The Bottle Rockets deserve equal billing right beside bands like the Old 97’s and Uncle Tupelo (which Brian Henneman was a member of from 1990-1992) for helping to form the rock side of alt-country in the early 90’s, even if they never found the same level of consistency and fame. That’s partly the blame of bad record deals, including when Atlantic bungled their career, resulting in long delays between Bottle Rockets releases, and other hiccups that had them fighting to stay alive as opposed to building an empire like their alt-country compadres.

But hardcore fans of The Bottle Rockets fought through it all with them. Formed in Missouri in 1992, what made The Bottle Rockets distinct early on was their folk style of songwriting, with everyman lyrics set to pretty serious rock instrumentation at times, and serving it all with a Heartland vibe. Brian Henneman in his hat and shades was the perfect semi-star for the alt-country movement. It was a blue collar operation that was easy to get behind. Sometimes they made fun of the mild nature of their success through their music.

“I’m done,” Brian Henneman said in his statement to fans. “Been thinkin’ about it this entire time off. I’m more certain of it than anything I’ve ever been certain of before. I’m turning 60 this year. Including my time with Uncle Tupelo, I have been doing this recording/touring thing for 30 years. I don’t consider myself too old to do it anymore, but I do consider myself too old to want to. Every musician has their own shelf life for doing what they do. Some go on into their 80’s, some quit in their 20’s and never look back. Ol’ Number 60, that’s me. 60 o’clock, that’s quittin’ time for this guy.”

The decision comes as the band’s current label, Bloodshot Records, also faces an uncertain future. Along with releasing the band’s tribute record Songs of Sahm in 2002, Bloodshot released The Bottle Rockets’ last four records, starting with 2006’s Zoysia, into 2018’s Bit Logic (read review).

“Mark, John, and Keith all understand where I’m at. That’s such a relief,” Brian Henneman continues. “Gotta salute Robert Kearns, Tom Parr, and Tom Ray too. All were members of the band I’m bidding farewell to. Everybody did a great job in their own time, in their own way. Everybody. I want to sincerely thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You all supported us for so long. I will never forget that, or take it lightly. I am forever humbled and grateful. It’s been fun, but now it’s done.”

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