Crenshaw and Bottle Rockets Heat Up the Narrows

Marshall Crenshaw and The Bottle Rockets arrived in Fall River (MA) for a great show last Thursday night. Given the outpouring of warmth in the crowd, and the excess heat in the old factory known as the Narrows Center, it’s appropriate to say that on the coldest night of the year, Marshall Crenshaw and the Bottle Rockets played a hot show!  With the building heat running a little high, both artists stormed through great songs old and new for a great night of music in the dead of winter.

The Bottle Rockets

Alt-Country original’s The Bottle Rockets, opened the show. The seminal St. Louis band cruised through a 16 song set with tunes ranging from early demos to new music.  Highlighting classics like “Kerosene,” “Radar Gun,” and “Welfare Music,” they set a rockin’ tone for the evening.

Their songs run the gamut from Texas two-step to Rockabilly alongside some kick ass rock and roll. Their lyrics can be catchy – “Whenever you’re ready, we’ll go steady,” (from “Every Kinda Everything”) – and, in “Smoking 100s,” pretty gloomy:

Another cup of coffee down the hatch

Another cigarette as soon as she finds a match

Feelin’ more like a loser as each minute drags on

She’s smoking 100’s alone.

There’s an element of swamp humor in their music, too – evident in one of the longest titles of any rock song in history - "This Is What It Sounds Like When You're Listening to Lindsey Buckingham and Thinking About Your Friend's Girlfriend at the Same Time." Nuff said.

The Rockets promise a new release soon. Meanwhile, check out their recently re-released two album set here. The album, which includes bonus material, is a reissue of their first two CDs, The Bottle Rockets and Brooklyn Side.

Marshall Crenshaw

Marshall Crenshaw has been making great music since the early 1980s. After a stint playing John Lennon in the stage show Beatlemania, (and later, a bit part playing Buddy Holly in the film La Bamba), he embarked on a solo career, which included critically acclaimed albums and a few charting singles.

Crenshaw’s music is sometimes hard to categorize. On the surface, it’s power pop, with a dose of retro rock and roll, featuring great lyrics and tight arrangements. But it goes deeper - there’s a distinctive warmth to his sound. His harmonies and chord changes evoke a feeling of elation, even when the mood is melancholy.  

With the Bottle Rockets backing, he opened with a new song, a beautiful mellow rocker “Stranger and Stranger.” The lyrics are poignant –

“Sad to say, I’m confronted by this fact,

 She’s gone away now, never will be back,

It’s so true that time can be a cruel re-arranger,

And the weather outside is getting stranger and stranger.”

Next up was “Passing Through” a tune Crenshaw labeled “a joyful song about mortality,” from the 2009 album, Jaggedland. A couple of classic hits followed; “There She Goes Again,” at a slower tempo than the original, and “Cynical Girl,” a memorable song (“well I hate TV, there’s gotta’ be somebody other than me …”) from his self-titled debut album. Rocket’s leader Brian Henneman supplied an extra layer of harmony accompanying Crenshaw on electric sitar on both tunes. Talk about twang!

His newest song, “Driving and Dreaming” came next, a melodic 70’s style ballad. The confessional mood continued with another new one, “Live and Learn,” which featured great harmonizing from bass player Keith Voegele.

The new tunes are part of a special distribution arrangement for Crenshaw, which came about as part of a Kickstarter campaign. Instead of releasing traditional albums, he’s putting out a series of three 10’ LP’s annually. Each album contains 3-4 songs including an original, a cover and a rare live recording of an older song. Click here for further details.

Playing the Classics

“Calling Out for Love at Crying Time” was next, a tune co-written by singer/producer Don Dixon. The Buddy Holly classic “Crying, Waiting, Hoping,” came later, a beautiful version demonstrating how Crenshaw carries on the legacy of Holly. A lesser-known Everly Brothers song, “Man with Money,” was next, a nice tribute to the duo who influenced many great singer-songwriters including Crenshaw.

The show continued with Crenshaw’s biggest hit, “Someday, Someway,” a rocker that still sounds great after all these years. He closed his set with “Better Back Off,” from the 1991 release Life’s Too Short, “a happy song about anxiety” declared the singer.


The band romped through Richard Thompson’s “Valerie,” a song Crenshaw first recorded in 1989. He closed with a classic love song, “Whenever You’re on My Mind,” noting his band once dressed as pirates when he recorded the tune for an MTV video.

After 30+ years, Crenshaw is still an under-appreciated musician. He’s always been a critical favorite, and his new songs would be hits in a long lost music market.  His “too cool for school” attitude comes off a little heavy sometimes, but it’s balanced alongside his serenading love songs. Although he hasn’t lost his bite, the new songs are a little smoother around the edges.  At the core, he’s a hopeless romantic.

For more Marshall Crenshaw, visit his website.

This article was originally published in Ken Abrams reviews Roots, Rock and Blues for GoLocal. He can be contacted at



Views: 799

Comment by Steve Pellettiere on January 31, 2014 at 5:58am

Two of my favorite acts...together. Doesn't get much better than that. They've been doing this for a little while now, but looking forward to my first opportunity to see this show on March 3rd at Knuckleheads in KC and your review did nothing but ramp up my excitement level.

Comment by BlueRick on January 31, 2014 at 6:14am

Marshall Crenshaw is a great his stuff

Comment by Jack Williams on January 31, 2014 at 6:15am

Very timely. I'm checking them out tonight. Glad to hear the Bottle Rockets set isn't a short one. And if they all do Valerie, I'll be in heaven.

Looking forward to Marshall Crenshaw, too. Haven't kept up with him much since the '80s, but did get the This Is Easy compilation over ten years ago or so and have been listening to it lately to get ready. I saw him once maybe thirty years ago in a bar in Rochester, NY when I was in college. One memory I have is that someone kept yelling out for Buddy Holly. Marshall finally said "what makes you think I know any Buddy Holly?" It was a few years later when he had a short part playing Buddy Holly in the movie La Bamba.

Comment by Ken Abrams on January 31, 2014 at 6:24am

Great story Jack - thanks for reading!


You need to be a member of No Depression Americana and Roots Music to add comments!

Join No Depression Americana and Roots Music


If you enjoy this site please consider helping us with a small donation!

Don't like PayPal? Mail a check to: No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

When you shop at Amazon please enter through this search box and No Depression receives a referral fee



Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.