Archive for December, 2001

Rolling Stone has released its year-end “Top 10” and “Best Of The Rest” lists. The 97’s Satellite Rides makes the B.O.T.R. list with other “also rans” like Paul McCartney, Macy Gray, R.E.M., Weezer, New Order and Ryan Adams. Senior R.S. critic David Fricke writes:


Old 97’s

Satellite Rides

Elektra

Old 97’s singer Rhett Miller writes stone-country, lovin’-and-cheatin’ tunes for urban canyon dwellers. The band rocks these songs like a runaway subway train. Born in Dallas, Old 97’s are truly gifted in the Nashville arts. But they were wearing New York plates when they made this baby.

RollingStone.com then posted a more ecumenical “Critics’ Top Albums of 2001,” where the 97’s pop up several more times:


BILL HOLDSHIP

2. The Old 97’s, Satellite Rides (Elektra): Like Wilco, they’ve moved way beyond the limiting alternative country genre to create an album that would have sounded right at home during the glory days of British and New York new wave.

CHRISTINA SARACENO

3. The The Old 97’s, Satellite Rides (Elektra): Alt-country by way of the Lower East Side, Rhett Miller’s melodies and vocals are earnest and urgent and just right.

Finally, R.S. critic Gail Worley chimes in with what may be, for the Old 97’s, the best endorsement ever:


GAIL WORLEY

7. The Old 97’s, Satellite Rides (Elektra): Because their fans are violent maniacs!

Happy New Year y’all! See you at the shows.

From Malcolm Mayhew in the December 21, 2001, Ft. Worth Star Telegram:


The Old 97’s are in the midst of some major changes: The band is currently in negotiations to sever its ties with Elektra Records (its home for three records), but band singer Rhett Miller is signing back on Elektra’s dotted line for two solo records.

Group drummer Philip Peeples says the band and Elektra are working out a “buyout” deal. That is, Elektra will pay the group a lump sum of money instead of honoring the terms of the band’s renegotiated contract – tweaked earlier this year – that initially called for two more 97’s discs.

The deals, Peeples says, are still in the works. “I can’t really believe anything until I get the paperwork from my lawyer,” he says. “Last I heard, though, we’re going ahead with this.”

Miller re-signing with Elektra will undoubtedly cloud the future of the alt-country quartet. Not only will it surely cause some inner-band strife, but Elektra will want Miller to focus on his solo career. And the same thing that happened to Miller and bassist Murry Hammond’s side-project, The Ranchero Brothers – it got indefinitely shelved – may wind up happening to the 97’s.

But Peeples remains optimistic about the 97’s’ future.

“We existed before Elektra, and we’ll exist after,” he says. “This has always been our band, and we’ll decide if and when we’ll stop it. We’re hoping to just start over at a new label.”

Peeples says Miller’s solo deal is actually coming at a good time.

“We were going to tell Elektra that we wanted to take some time off anyway,” he says. “I have another baby on the way. Murry’s planning on doing a solo record and another one with his fiancee. Ken’s got a side-project going,” he said, referring to band guitarist Ken Bethea. “We’ve all got a lot of other stuff going on, so the timing’s perfect.”

The Old 97’s will perform with Daryl and Slobberbone Dec. 28 at the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth. — Malcolm Mayhew

Though Zac Crain takes a somewhat more pessimistic view in the 12/27 Dallas Observer, you shouldn’t get too stressed about it. As mentioned previously, the Old 97’s will continue appear together for shows and perhaps limited touring, until Rhett finishes up his projects for Elektra, at which time they’ll likely return to the studio. Check back soon, as Hit By A Train will have official word for the band itself as soon as details firm up.

Also, have I mentioned the Old 97’s tribute band, the Satellite Riders? And did I mention that they put on a show with all the intensity and polish as the Olds? And did I mention that they even look like the 97’s? So, you gonna be at the Sons of Hermann in Dallas to catch the Satellite Riders tomorrow? 😉 Finally, here’s wishing a Safe and Happy New Year from the Old 97’s family to you and yours. Cheers!

Yeah OK, sometimes tribute bands are a blight. In North Texas though, they seem to rock. For example, Weener and Bluh pay tribute to Weezer and Blur respectively, while putting on A+ shows in their own right. Of course the 97’s have a growing list of bands who cover their songs, and now, they too have a, ahem… tribute band. Billing themselves as “Satellite Riders,” these four guys, who even look a bit like the 97’s – Mike Shrimpton (drums), Derek Smalls (bass), Nigel Tuffnel (lead guitar), and Dave Hubbins (rythym guitar/lead vocals) – have been plugging away for as long as the Old 97’s themselves, and have garnered their own ever-growing flock of converts. They also bring to their shows the same happy intensity as the Olds, and now, 97’s fans can check ’em out in a classic Old 97’s venue, and within a day of an Old 97’s show. That’s because on Thursday December 27 (the night before the Old 97’s play Ft. Worth’s Ridglea Theater) you can check out the Satellite Riders at Dallas’ Sons of Hermann Hall. Be there!

Next subject: rumors. How can I put this delicately? Let’s try it this way: THE OLD 97’S ARE NOT BREAKING UP, despite what Mike Rhyner and the guys on KTCK’s The Hardline might have inferred on their Friday 12/12 broadcast. What’s up anyway? Well, The Hardline replayed bits of an interview recorded when they had the band in the studio over a year ago, in which Señor Rhyner razzed Rhett Miller, saying he was going to go solo and bust up the band. A somewhat flustered Miller denied it. Then on 11/2 of this year, Rhett joined the Hardline for another interview. Again, they gave him a hard time about making a solo record, the difference being that this year, Rhett decided to go ahead and make one. Then on the 12/12 show, the Hardline boys reported that Rhett has signed a two-album solo deal with Elektra, with Rhyner apparently tacking on an “I told you so,” implying that the Old 97’s were breaking up as a result. It ain’t so. As reported here on 11/5, Rhett is hitting the studio on February 8 to begin work on his second solo album, but the Old 97’s look to return to the studio themselves in 2003 or 2004 to record a follow-up to Satellite Rides. The Old 97’s will continue to play scattered dates and perhaps limited tours until then, and again, nothing received here indicates a breakup of the band, though obviously a return to the studio will depend on Rhett’s reception as a solo artist.

And it ain’t like the guys won’t be busy next year, to whit: You already know that Rhett and Murry are getting married. And no, not to each other, smartypants. Philip and his wife are expecting another baby, and Ken Bethea’s going to be keeping busy with the music himself. He reports, “I’ve been practicing with a bass player here in Dallas some. I’m going to try to book something in Jan I think. Maybe Feb. I’m singing and wrote the songs. I’m not sure whether I’ll book with my name or a band name or what. Also I’ll probably at least add an instrumentalist. The music is pretty folky… i’m only using my classical guitar. I may use some electric on some of it…” Be sure to check back here for all the details, as they become available.

Speaking of the Rhettster, Pamela Des Barres (author of 1987’s wild Rock & Roll tell-all, “I’m With The Band – Confessions Of A Groupie“) conducted an interview with him for Launch.com. Titled “Rhett Miller’s Good Job,” it’s available by clicking here. Sample” Rhett and I settle into a dark Rainbow booth, and I regale him with stories from the infamous bar’s notorious past. I tell him how his band the Old 97’s sends me reeling. How he’s the sexiest frontman to come along in way too long. How it’s a rare joy to discover music that makes air worth breathing. I tend to gush a bit. Oh well, it’s part of my charm.” Look out, Rhett!

Also, ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) has a terrific, multi-part audio interview with Rhett on their site. The link was forwarded to me in August. I then promptly misplaced it, but am happy to (finally) have it posted it for your listening pleasure.

Finally, Traycie West finished up work on a wonderful Old 97’s screen saver back in October, which I’ve also been seriously slack in getting around to posting. Designed for Windows users, it’s in a 3.19mb .zip file, and finally available by clicking here. Until next time, Merry Christmas!