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  Listen Up! 11/7/03 Listen Up!

Friday, Nov. 7

Bottle Rockets, “Blue Sky,” Sanctuary Records. Generally, whenever I write about anything having to do with Brian Henneman, I wind up putting my foot in my mouth facts-wise. So, no speculation about anything other than the music this time. This new release has several more terrific songs from Henneman (often with his unsung but extremely talented collaborator, Scott Taylor, who doesn’t play with the band but spends his days teaching school in the district where the Bottle Rockets grew up). I’m particularly pleased with “Lucky Break,” a song about worker’s comp insurance; “Man of Constant Anxiety,” which has as much fire in the music as it does cleverness in the title; “Cross By the Highway,” a tribute to those who mourn those who passed; “Pretty Little Angie,” because it builds on the sounds of the Doug Sahm tribute album from last year; and “Blue Sky,” because it reminds me of the Lovin’ Spoonful somehow. I’m less enamored of Robert Kearns’ songs, which just don’t have the spark of Henneman’s best material. I do find it interesting that this album has a lot more acoustic, minimal cuts than previous Bottle Rockets records have had, especially since the new touring line-up has added the incendiary second guitar of John Horton (former Vintage Vinyl employee and still a member of St. Louis’ finest country outfit, the Rockhouse Ramblers). At any rate, this is a very solid record from a really good band.

Marvin Gaye, “I Want You,” Motown Records. This sounded so good the other day, I had to hear it again. Yep, it sounds even better today. All that lush production, those gently throbbing rhythms, those layers of Marvin Gaye vocal yearnings. Mmmm.

Lowell Fulson, “Black Nights: The Early Kent Sessions,” Ace Records. It’s the mid-1960s, and Lowell Fulson was rocking the blues hard, with some jet-propelled horn sections, some sparkling tight guitar picking, and some push-the-needle-to-the-red-zone vocals. This is Saturday-night-let’s-have-a-great-party music. I can’t believe this stuff hasn’t been celebrated more.

--Steve Pick

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