Brian Henneman thinks putting a band together is like playing a game of chance. "You keep trying to pick musicians like you're trying to pick lottery numbers," said Henneman, lead vocals and guitar for The Bottle Rockets, a roots rock quartet from Missouri.
"We hit the jackpot, finally, 13 years later."
Henneman said the Rockets' latest album "Zoysia" is the newest evolution for a band known for having already perfected a blend of rural rock twang and soulful romanticism.
"There's a lot more detail in the music than there's ever been before. Basically, half the band is new and they're entirely better musicians than we've ever had before. [The equation] is probably: same sound plus better musicianship equals different sound," he said.
The constants for The Bottle Rockets are Henneman and drummer Mark Ortmann. John Horton, playing a variety of guitars from lap steel to acoustic, and bass/vocalist Keith Voegele round out a lineup that will play two nights at Iota Club on Monday, June 19 and Tuesday, June 20. Both shows feature opener Bobby Bare, Jr. and begin at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.
The Bottle Rockets play the new album in its entirety live. "Like how Neil Young did 'Greendale.' You get the full album first and then the solid hour of 'greatest knowns,'" said Henneman.
It wouldn't be the first time Henneman's band had been associated with Young; everything from album reviews to their official bio reference the veteran rocker or his band Crazy Horse as a basis for comparison.
"Being pigeonholed there is better than being pigeonholed as something else," said Henneman. "It's never bothered me. I'm just too happy to accept it — to me, Neil can do no wrong."
FOR HENNEMAN, the best thing to happen to the kind of roots rock The Bottle Rockets play is that it never lingered too long in the spotlight. "It's a type of music that doesn't die. What has saved it and made it stay around is that it never did blow up commercially huge," he said.
Henneman said bands like the Rockets never achieved a level of fame where a backlash against the genre would set in. "It never got big enough to get any blacklash against it. Since it never got huge, record companies weren't screwing around with it as much, so that artists were able to stay truer to the music," he said. "If this type of music had gotten to, like, Nickelback level, then the record companies would be trying to sign the prettiest guys and girls and it would generate into crap."
"Zoysia," the band's eighth album since 1993, features songs with bittersweet humor and characters. Henneman said the material comes from a variety of places; "Blind," a song about social acceptance that features several quick tales about different relationships, was written as Henneman waited for jury duty.
Songs like "Blind" are all over this album, and the Rockets' past efforts: straight-ahead, accessible lyrics over timeless roots-rock tunes.
"This ain't no distant 'don't touch me, don't point at me' rock star kind of thing," said Henneman.