Category: The Old 97’s

The Old 97’s – Too Far to Care

ARTIST: The Old 97’s                                220px-Old_97s-Too_Far_To_Care

TITLE: Too Far to Care

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Only promo singles

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Timebomb, Barrier Reef, Melt Show, Big Brown Eyes, Four Leaf Clover

LINEUP: Rhett Miller, Murry Hammon, Ken Bethea, Phillip Peeples. John Rauhouse and Wally Gagel guested, and Exene sang on one track with Rhett Miller.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First major label release for the rockin’ alt-country band blazes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Kicking off with the raucous “Timebomb”, then going into their probably-signature song “Barrier Reef”, the Old 97’s go national and make a name for themselves.

They focused on more of their rock side, and that probably helped them to be honest, especially with the sound and production from Wally Gagel that emphasizes the guitar of Ken Bethea and the drums.

While not exactly a perfect album, Miller’s songwriting was getting sharper and wittier, and the band was ready to jump in to the rockin’ style with both feet.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: A couple of tracks were re-done from earlier albums. Also, Stuart Ransom Miller is Rhett Miller’s real name, but it’s also his father’s name and it’s allegedly not autobiographical.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Four extra songs, and then later another disc of demos.

GRADE: A-:  A fun, raucous good time.

The Old 97’s – Wreck Your Life

ARTIST: Old 97’s                                                                                                                  220px-old_97s-wreck_your_life

TITLE:  Wreck Your Life

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Victoria, Doreen, Big Brown Eyes, W-I-F-E

LINEUP: Ken Bethea, Murry Hammond, Rhett Miller, Philip Peeples

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second full length record from the band sounds fresh and inspired, mining rock and country into a winning mix on many cuts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Moving past the sometimes rushed sound of their first album, Wreck Your Life finds the Old 97’s comfortable in both country and rock, and both in moody songs and more driving tunes.

Rhett Miller’s wit and smartassery is evident in his songwriting and he can mine a country cliché for the best results, especially in “W-I-F-E”. The band sounds confident and clear, and they started to gain a lot of national traction in the alt-country movement. Ken Bethea’s guitar hangs out in the lower registers, as a good country guitarist does.

Not every song is memorable. There’s still a few filler tracks around to make the numbers. But the best songs are ones that the Old 97’s have carried forward in their career, and are true fan favorites.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Big Brown Eyes” was re-recorded for their major label debut.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-:  Just a couple of filler tracks, but the best songs are all-timers

The Old 97’s – Hitchhike to Rhome

ARTIST: The Old 97’s  220px-Old_97s-Hitchhike_To_Rhome
TITLE: Hitchike to Rhome
YEAR RELEASED: 1994
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Stoned
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They redid a few tracks for later albums.
LINEUP: Ken Bethea, Murry Hammond, Rhett Miller, Phil Peeples.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Texas alt-country band begins their long recording career with an independent album that, coupled with a national tour, started the wags buzzing.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Old 97’s burst out of the gate pretty much fully formed in their vision and what they do. Rhett Miller and company write songs about bad relationships, drinking and other substances, and Texas, in a rockin’ way with country underpinnings – with some acoustic tales of woe from Miller.

About half of this record is great, and most of the great songs familiar, as they recorded some of these tracks later, or played them live and documented them on their live album. They stumble a bit at times (while Hammond loves Mama Tried it’s not his best effort) and a few songs could have trimmed – there are 15 tracks.

Still, it’s a debut album that’s a great introduction to them, and you’ll want to consume your beverage of choice and kick back to it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title comes from the song “Stoned” – which I think is the highlight of the record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes with a bunch of demos.

GRADE: B: There’s some fluff, but it’s solid.