CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Of all of the musicians to emerge from the burgeoning alt-country scene of the '90s, few have been as deeply rooted, consistent, and successful as The Bottle Rockets' Brian Henneman. It's somewhat fitting, then, that Henneman's band has dubbed itself "the best band in the world." While the tagline might come across to those unfamiliar with the band as pompous, if you ask Henneman himself, it's more of a matter of self-deprecation mixed with self-efficacy.
"Well, I might as well say it, 'cause there ain't nobody else that's going to say it," Henneman said jokingly. "You've got to get a rumor started somewhere."
And Henneman has never been short on giving fans a chance to start rumors over the past 20 years, first appearing on Mountain Stage as an additional guitarist with alt-country forerunners Uncle Tupelo. It's a performance that serves as a somewhat of a landmark for the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.
"My last show with them was their first show with Ken Coomer on drums, which was at Mountain Stage," Henneman said. "It would have been January of 1993, right before The Bottle Rockets started."
Despite leaving the internally tumultuous Uncle Tupelo to focus on his own band, Henneman's ties to Jeff Tweedy led to a spot as a session guitarist on Wilco's debut record, "A.M."
"It really felt exactly like Uncle Tupelo at that time. There was no sense it could become huge," said Henneman of his short stint in Wilco.
With The Bottle Rockets gaining momentum of its own, Henneman passed on the chance to join Wilco full time. The way he tells the story, there's plenty of room for rumor and speculation.
"I vaguely remember Jeff asking if I wanted to join and I declined because we had just done (The Bottle Rockets') second album," he said. "I would have been fired quickly into the proceedings with them, I'm sure."
"At that time I probably felt we had more going on at that time than they did," added Henneman with a laugh.
With eight studio albums and two live recordings under their belt, Henneman and company have clearly done something right. Carrying on with Henneman's ability to navigate the busy alt-country scene, The Bottle Rockets have employed a similarly adaptive ethic.