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!

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