Marshall Crenshaw & The Bottle Rockets
Over 25 years since breaking through to critical and commercial acclaim with his 1982 self-titled debut and its infectious, era-defining pop hit "Someday, Someway," Marshall Crenshaw creates an incredible new chapter in his career with his 429 Records debut Jaggedland. Crenshaw's first studio recording in more than six years is his most musically dynamic and lyrically intimate collection yet.
Classic Crenshaw attributes including an indelible sense of melody and tuneful essence combine to create a rich warmth and intimacy on every song of Jaggedland. The recording has a powerful vibe of immediacy thanks to Crenshaw's warm vocals and riveting guitar work. He takes the production to its highest levels working with a roster of well known musical heroes and veteran producers. Crenshaw first recorded two tracks in Upstate New York with Stewart Lerman (The Roches, Dar Williams), the melancholy "Sunday Blues" and the fiery rocker "Someone Told Me." Crenshaw did seven of the tracks at Sage and Sound Studios in Los Angeles with producer/engineer Jerry Boys (REM, Richard Thompson, Buena Vista Social Club), who had been his "wish list" since he heard the Mambo Sinuendo album Boys engineered for Ry Cooder and Cuban guitarist Manuel Galban in 2003. Highlights of these West Coast sessions are "Passing Through," the hopeful "Eventually" and the powerful "Long Hard Road."
The album title Jaggedland is a term Crenshaw says best describes the current state of his brain and consciousness. Simply put, the 12 songs are musical observations about the human experience, mortality, the state of the world and of course, love as viewed through the inimitable Crenshaw perspective. The sessions involved key contributions from legendary drummer Jim Keltner (whose credits include The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson and Joni Mitchell); guitarists Greg Leisz (Lucinda Williams, Robert Plant) and the MC5's Wayne Kramer as well as legendary vibraphonist, Emil Richards (Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Frank Sinatra).
"It was exciting and inspiring to work with such amazing musicians and producers. I fell in love with Mambo Sinuendo five years ago," Crenshaw continues, "and when I started thinking about recording my next record, Jerry immediately came to mind. When I found out that he was once an assistant engineer for The Beatles--that sealed the deal!"
"I also owe Stewart Lerman much of the credit for getting the ball rolling and inspiring me to start thinking about writing and recording this album," Crenshaw adds. "When we ran into each other at a political event in 2004, he gave me a pep talk and said he wanted to work with me. We hooked up about a year later and I started dabbling in new songs. As things went along, I started to feel like the material was taking on some unexpected dimensions and it dawned on me that I still have such a huge appreciation and respect for records as an art form--and a deep love for the power of songs and music. Even at this late stage of the game, with so many years and recordings behind me, I felt compelled to step up and reach as deep into myself as I could. That renewed sense of passion and commitment is the driving force behind the songs on Jaggedland, which I truly believe are some of my best ever."
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Crenshaw began playing guitar at age ten and he received his first break playing John Lennon in the off-Broadway company of Beatlemania. In 1987, he played Buddy Holly in the Richie Valens biopic "La Bamba."
Living in NYC, he recorded the single "Something's Gonna Happen" for Alan Betrock's Shake Records, which led to a deal with Warner Bros. His debut album, Marshall Crenshaw was acclaimed as a pop masterpiece upon its release in 1982 and established him as a first-rate songwriter, singer and guitarist. The record spawned the Top 40 single "Someday, Someway," which rockabilly singer Robert Gordon scored a hit with a year earlier. Crenshaw's second album, 1983's Field Day, was another critical smash and led to a successful slate of 20-plus years of studio recordings that offered a fascinating evolutionary journey through an array of musical landscapes.
A quote from Trouser Press sums up Marshall Crenshaw's early career: "Although he was seen as a latter-day Buddy Holly at the outset, he soon proved too talented and original to be anyone but himself." All Music Guide captured Crenshaw's vibe perfectly: "He writes songs that are melodic, hooky and emotionally true, and he sings and plays them with an honesty and force that still finds room for humor without venom."
As Crenshaw was developing Jaggedland's mix of poignant and incisive love songs and musings on mortality, he ventured once again into the film world, co-penning the title track to the hilarious, critically acclaimed John C. Reilly film "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story"; the track was nominated for a 2008 Golden Globe and a 2008 Grammy Award.
Over the last few years, Crenshaw has played 40 - 50 shows a year on what he dubs "the NPR singer-songwriter circuit." Says Crenshaw, "This album took a lot of wear and tear on my emotions, but in the end I think it's one of my best ever and I am so excited to have worked with so many of my favorite players on it. When people ask me why I keep making music after all these years, I have a simple answer: because I have to. For lack of a more colorful term, there is truly something magical to it and I never take it for granted."
In a country where interstates don't take you to new places, but to the same places, where everywhere you go you've already been or you've just left, The Bottle Rockets' new album absolutely nails a sound and a vibe with a palpable sense of place. Lean Forward is suffused with the determination and resilience of their distinctly midwestern roots; theirs is a celebration of pragmatism and tempered optimism, not the delusions and exhortations of glassy eyed zealotsthey aren't going to fall for that. Oh, it's a flat out, smoking rock record, too.
Lean Forward continues the Rockets' creative resurgence ignited by 2006's Zoysia. Reunited with producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel (who ran the knobs on the Bottle Rockets' seminal albums The Brooklyn Side and 24 Hours A Day), the Bottle Rockets do what no other band does better look into the hearts and minds and faces of the dying small towns in America and crafts populist anthems with the sympathetic eye of Woody Guthrie and sonic stomp of Crazy Horse. They are songs that demand the windows be rolled down and the volume turned up. And with the hooks, you'll wonder how they make such problems sound so good
Lean Forward is stacked with a sharp lyricism and gritty fatalism that looks off the front porch for inspiration, and has the locked down groove of a band on top of its game. "The Long Way" looks on the bright side of the path not intentionally taken and works into a joyous song-ending jam. Songs like "Done It All Before" and "Get on the Bus" shine with an irresistible buoyancy, as does "Shame on Me" which gets to the meat of the relationship matter that, despite our best intentions, we're all gonna screw up. "Hard Times" whips up a ZZ Top-inflected boogie with effortless mastery and a dual guitar attack that'll put some much-needed flare back in your jeans.
On "Kid Next Door," the lyrics bypass protest in favor of simple commentary on a war coming home, making it a far more powerful song no matter where one stands on the issue. It's a stone cold classic and handled with the deftness and conviction that speaks to the Rockets' sober-minded realism. To see that they've still got scruffy punk moxie to spare, look no further than "The Way It Used To Be" and the channeling of Bo Diddley via the Stooges on "Nothing but a Driver."
With their 15th anniversary now in the rear view mirror, the Bottle Rockets show no signs of letting up. Lean Forward is an album that celebrates the forces of erosion not earthquakes, of the marathon not the sprint. Honed in their towns and on their back roads, it is distinctly the Bottle Rockets. Rather than be confining, this identity broadens the appeal and strength of their music far from their backyards into our own. Their specificity speaks universally and the message is a simple one: Lean forward, man, because it beats falling back.
High Noon Saloon (View)
701 E. Washington Ave
Madison, WI 53703
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