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June 1st, 2011 JAY HORTON | Music Stories
 

Primer: Old 97’s

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Formed: In 1993, when a fight broke during a Dallas bar band rehearsal: “You put alt in my country!” “You put country in my alt!”

Sounds like: Suburban cowboys tending their bar-brawl wounds and spinning regrets the long morning after. 

For fans of: Wilco, Waco Brothers, Bad Livers, Drive-By Truckers, Dallas Mavericks (they’re the unofficial house band for the Western Conference champs).

Latest release: While last year’s The Grand Theatre Volume One wasn’t quite the return to form advertised nor the Great Americana Record long expected by the faithful, the honky-tonk barnburners and affecting balladry still shine.

Why you care: Corralled during the great y’allternative stampede but left to pasture just a few years afterward as those old 1997 hopes of a cattle-drive-time ubiquity vanished to the winds, Rhett Miller and the boys opted to make a Chili’s jingle—instilling a rhythmic meter to baby back ribs whose catchiness still haunts dreams—and, apparently, found new direction in the process. The band’s successively de-twanged albums failed to deliver the all-conquering single nor identify that Soccer Mom Tupelo demographic. Lately embracing their roots (if not quite their rootsiness), the Old 97’s can still kick in the cowpunk afterburners, Miller retains his sweetheart-of-the-rodeo allure, and although their famously far-ranging songcraft can veer toward the cheeseball, their best instincts effortlessly divine big-sky grandeur from relentlessly ordinary lives with affecting—and essentially unfranchiseable—distinction. 


SEE IT: The Old 97's play Doug Fir on Wednesday, June 1, with Sarah Jaffe. 9 pm. $20. 21+.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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