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Timing has never been kind to Bottle Rockets frontman Brian Henneman. Though he started his first roots-driven rock act in '77, a later incarnation of which would serve as inspiration for Uncle Tupelo, Henneman's rarely mentioned as an alt-country pioneer. (A longtime friend of Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, Henneman even played with both Uncle Tupelo and Wilco.)

The Rockets' second album, 1995's working-class-flavored The Brooklyn Side, was a huge critical success that netted them a major label deal, but they were dropped after one album, the underrated 24 Hours a Day. More label troubles ensued, and though 2001's tribute disc Songs of Sahm and the twangy Blue Sky, released in 2003, were well received, it took last summer's Zoysia for the band to finally reestablish itself as a top country-rawk act. "Middle Man," with its southern-fried boogie, and "Blind," a humorous honky-tonk meditation on race relations, demonstrate the light everyman touch of the BotRox. Meanwhile, the Stonesy "Mountain to Climb" and the Neil Young-inspired "Happy Anniversary" crank the bar-band roar that's always been the group's calling card. After three decades, Henneman's fortunes may finally be crossing his talent.

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