Archive for 2006

Hey kids, here’s one last pre-Christmas post to warm the cockles of yer frozen hearts. It’s about that long-lost 1995 Christmas compilation to which the Old 97’s contributed a couple of tracks, Honkey-Tonk Holidays. I couldn’t agree more with the post’s author, Robert Wilonsky, that “Rhett Miller has a voice made for Christmas carols.”

Plus, Wilonksy’s got a link for you to download an MP3 of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”! If you just have to have the CD – and since nearly every track’s a winner, who can blame you? – I actually saw, for the first time in years, a single unopened copy on a store’s shelves, at Dallas’ CD World, just a couple of weeks ago!

So ho, ho, ho, and Merry Christmas one and all!

Ho ho ho y’all! So there ain’t a ton of news, but what’s there is cherse! (Free Wreck Your Life poster to the first one who can name the reference, without Googling. And don’t fib – it’s the Baby Jesus’ birthday!) And speaking of, the 97’s MySpace page has the band’s two great Christmas cuts up for your holiday listening pleasure, “Holly Jolly Christmas,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” While Rhett also has an absolute knockout, sob-in-yer-‘nog original up on his MySpace page, called “Here It Is Christmas.” Makes me hope the guys don’t wait too long to make that holiday album they’d threatened to make this year!

Rhett also has a short story, called “I Got You,” up on the literary site, fivechapters.com. Check it out! Then on the 21st of this month Rhett joins Teddy Thompson and others at the Living Room in NYC for a show benefiting the Save Darfur campaign. It’s good music for a great cause, and we have more details and loads of new dates from Rhett and I Love Math up in the Tour Dates section.

Which reminds me: I Love Math and Rhett Miller each contribute original tracks to a campaign fundraiser for the Dallas mayoral campaign of Zac Crain, and whether you can vote in Dallas or not, this is one amazingly good track list.

Now here’s a test: What band is this?

They “have an avant-garde stage show, and are seemingly influenced by visual sickies like Dino Lee and the White Trash Revue, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. The music? “It’s sick, white noise,” (Dallas music impresario Jeff) Liles laughs. “Howling and ranting and raving on top of a wall of feedback. A typical night onstage is the drummer coming out and pounding out a hypnotic beat on the tom-toms, followed by a wall of piercing feedback, then someone tips over the lava-lamp… they get down on their knees onstage, and the audience gets up and sits on the stage with ’em. Their songs are like four or five minutes each, with hypnotic, repetitive beats. You can only handle about 10 or 15 minutes of it at a time, but it’s pure, sick pleasure.”

Give up?

It’s the late, great Peyote Cowboys of Dallas, Texas, whose primary songwriter, Murry Hammond, when the Old 97’s are not in session, these days plays old-time gospel most Wednesday evenings at the First Christian Church of Burbank, California. And who’s about to become a daddy first the first time. Which is all just more proof – at least for me – that God has a sense of humor. Check out the Peyote Cowboys, a few of their songs, and some great old photos on their MySpace page at myspace.com/thepeyotecowboys.

Finally, since this is the Old 97’s website, we gotta have at least a few bits of band news. First, while I’d heard of these guys a couple of years back, I’d never heard the song itself. Imagine the Go-Go’s name-checking the Old 97’s and you’ll get the idea of catchy-like-a-cold “You Dance Bad” by Palomar. Neat huh? Unfortunately further investigation reveals that it was penned by Palomar lead-singer Rachel Warren as a kiss-off to an ex-boyfriend who she says, “used to always get drunk and make me slow dance with him to the Old 97’s.” So guys, don’t be a tool. Unless you want her to hate the band, don’t get drunk and force your girlfriend slow-dance to the Old 97’s. Unless of course she’ll write a tune as cool as this one, and then… well… sometimes a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.

I’m kidding. Really. Just playing on the same stereotype as Ms. Warren is all.

So, Desert Island discs. Everybody’s got their own, though some people’s lists get a little more play than others. Here’s a list of eight discs that include the likes of The Beatles, Springsteen, Dylan, and The Pretenders. Oh, and the Old 97’s. The list-maker is one Stephen King, who I understand is some sort of modestly-selling author, and his selections were spun in late November on BBC Radio 4.

So there you go. Again, don’t forget to check out the new Rhett Miller and I Love Math dates, and know that when there is news on Old 97’s, we’ll have it here ASAP. Look for that to happen sometime early in what everyone in the Old 97’s family hopes will be a Safe and Happy 2007 for you and yours. Happy Holidays!

Man, the last several years have seen this site yammering on about baby this, and baby that, as the Old 97’s have continued to crank out those new 97’s. Well we first got wind back in August, and got the details today, on still another baby story; and because the 97’s have those babies, this one’s all about baby back, baby back, baby back ribs. Yep. You mean you haven’t noticed familiar guitars and friendly voices popping out of TV screens lately in catchy, jangly, thirty second bits? Read on, and absolutely don’t miss the 11 minute .mp3 interview with Ken. (You want a short recap of news from that interview? We’re looking at forty Old 97’s shows in 2007, with work on new songs commencing during the tours, and a new CD most likely in early 2008.) And don’t forget to check out the spot yourself, and a great demo for “Brown Haired Daughter” over at the Old 97’s MySpace page.

You might also notice a familiar voice on the theme song of the new NBC comedy Twenty Good Years (with Arrested Development‘s Jeff Tambor), as Rhett and The Believers hit the studio in August to record the Rhett-penned opening tune.

Finally, sharp-eared viewers may also have caught the dulcet tones of “Timebomb” featured last week in the new ABC drama, What About Brian, while just this week, NBC’s Today Show used “King Of All The World” in a piece about the 2006 Quill Awards.

So for those of you keeping score at home, let’s recap:

Commercials: 4 (Rhett’s cover of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” for MasterCard, the Chili’s spot by the Old 97’s, the Shiner Beer campaign featuring Rhett and the band, and the EA Sports/Madden NFL ad with the Old 97’s “Question”)
Theme Songs: 2 (Rhett’s Twenty Good Years theme, and “Lost Along The Way,” the Old 97’s theme to the late Showtime series Goin’ To California)
Number of Old 97’s songs licensed and used by movies, TV shows, news spots, and sports teams-venues-broadcasters: Too many to count.
Income: It’s a good thing; just ask someone without it.

Now if you’ve got some income you’d like to share, here’s a good cause: Zac Crain for Mayor of Dallas. Zac, you may recall, is the former music editor of the Dallas Observer, and Zac’s friends, including Rhett Miller, Polyphonic Spree guru Tim DeLaughter, Ben Kweller, Pikahsso, Pleasant Grove, Peter Schmidt (ex of Three on a Hill, Funland and Legendary Crystal Chandelier) and His Gentlemen Scholars, Sorta, Salim Nourallah, Saboteur, and others have each contributed tracks for an upcoming compilation CD to benefit the Crain campaign. The disc should hit shelves in December (the Dallas mayoral election is not until next Spring) and details on its release will be found at the Crain campaign website. Check it out!

So you need a 97’s video fix? Thanks to the folks at Bloodshot, we’ve got this vintage 97’s performance of “Over The Cliff” at Chicago’s Lounge Axe, and it’s just one of many from the new Bloodshot DVD, Bloodied But Unbowed. Don’t miss it. Also check out part one of this great Rhett Miller interview from 2004, and the Drag It Up tour, and part two, a nifty solo-acoustic version of “The New Kid.”

Finally in the video department, two of my favorite wordsmiths ever are Rhett Miller, whom you know, and Tom Wolfe, author of, among others, Bonfire of the Vanities, The Right Stuff, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and a personal favorite, From Bauhaus to Our House, Wolfe’s hysterically devastating critique of modern American architecture. Last year he released his latest novel, the mega-selling I Am Charlotte Simmons, and it was a huge kick to learn that Rhett had interviewed Wolfe just before the release of I.A.C.S, Now you can see that interview here. Man. If only John Lydon had interviewed Frank Sinatra, I could have called my life complete.

And speaking of Rhett writing, most of us had probably seen the band bio Rhett penned last fall for the release of Alive & Wired. Well recently, New West posted an expanded version, with some info I’d never even seen on the origins of the band, the name, and how it may have affected their fortunes over the years. Good stuff. And I’ve also got some new Rhett dates going up in the morning, so make sure to check for those too.

You know, one of the up-and-downsides of keeping up with breaking acts is Pitchfork. For all their good work, God bless their pointy little heads, in years past they’ve had some snotty things to say about the Old 97’s, so much so that I long ago gave up on seeing improvement in that particular musical blind-spot of theirs. So imagine my surprise to learn that Pitchfork actually liked Alive & Wired and Hit By A Train. Wonders never cease. While you’re at it, check out this new review of the Old 97’s Live DVD.

Now what do you mean you missed the mini-tour? How was it? What, are you kidding me? IT KICKED ASS.

The “Pavarotti of the Plains,” Don Walser passed away today. The Austin American-Statesman said, “Walser’s musical mission was to expose the country music of his youth to new audiences. Opening for such acts as the Butthole Surfers and Ministry, Walser introduced such old Western classics as ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds’ and ‘Cherokee Maiden’ to a whole new audience, one that often jubilantly moshed to his songs…”

Closer to home, Mr. Walser also sang that high lonesome yodel on the Old 97’s “Old Familiar Steam,” and the band, in a way, returned the favor last year at Greune Hall, when they covered Don’s signature tune, “Rolling Stone From Texas,” during the concerts that were recorded for Alive & Wired. He was a great guy, a fine musician, and a Texas original. R.I.P..

Get yer new Rhett dates here, and yer new Old 97’s pictures here! And hey you! Yeah you, Chi Cheng of the Deftones. The Old 97’s are cool. Glad you’re listening though.

Rhett was in the England last week, promoting The Believer‘s UK release on Wrasse Records. Wrote Rhett: “I just appeared on Phil Jupitus’ show on BBC6. Very funny guy. We talked about The Wedding Present for about a half an hour. Must have made for riveting radio.” Of course Rhett sprung the news on his MySpace blog on the afternoon of the 11th, after he was already there and just before his one British appearance, an in-store at one of London’s Fopp Music locations. Rhett, say something before you go next time!

Speaking of, I did hear from Philip the other day, who sprung the news that Murry and Grey… Well, it’s a boy. Or will be, come January. Right now he’s a sonogram with a very distinct visual signature, if you know what I mean. So send them baby-shower jammies in baby-blue, kids! Also, you’ve still got one more chance to catch Philip with I Love Math this month, on September 27 at Dallas Club Dada. I’m telling you, these guys are terrific. Catch ’em if you can! They’ve also got their sophomore album in the can, and we’ll have details here when it hits the shelves.

Finally, I mentioned last time that we’d have a “second of its kind” offer during this update. And we do. See, years ago, Hit By A Train, a.k.a, this web site, had part-time contributors, who’d write in with various postings, news, reviews, and the like. Well I still get many of the tips and news for the site via e-mailed suggestions, so I’d like to try that idea again. Are you up for the challenge? I’m not talking about rants or hyped-up plugs, as I can keep doing those myself 😉 Instead I’m looking for Old 97’s items that are fresh, insightful, smart, and on-topic. If you’ve got one, or more, send them here: landings DOT geo AT yahoo DOT com. I’ll post the good ones, with full credit to you. And if it turns out in time that we’re in synch about what ought to be posted here, you’ll be in line get the keys to the kingdom: The magic username and password to post updates directly to Hit By A Train and old97s.com, and credit as a co-editor of the site.

I’m not bailing out. Far from it. But I have heard the desires of some visitors for more frequent updates, and man, this is about the Old 97’s, so I am all over that idea. Furthermore, the site design has been the same since about the time Drag It Up dropped, so sometime in the next few months, I’d say it’s also about time for a nip and tuck. I gave over the last two site redesigns to professionals, because that’s what it deserves, but it’s time to ask again: Are you an html pro, with a background in website design and interested in lending a hand with updating or a redesign of old97s.com? If so, I’d like to hear from you, so drop a line to the address shown above.

We’ll have more Old 97’s news when it happens. Until then, I’ll see y’all at the Granada on the 12th. Cheers!

IT’S ALIVE!!! The Old 97’s laid low for a couple of months, so your webmaster did too. But now, the Old 97’s are playing again, baby! See ’em October 12th at The Granada in Dallas, on the 13th at Stubb’s in Austin, and on October 14th in beautiful Shiner, Texas, for the Shiner Bocktoberfest! Will there be more dates announced? I don’t know, maybe so.

BTW, folks on the official Old 97’s mailing list got first word last week that the 97’s would be back up and running this fall, so don’t be left out when 97’s news breaks! Sign up for the official Old 97’s mailing list by clicking here, or just sending an e-mail to: Old97s_List-subscribe AT yahoogroups.com

As for the Shiner Bocktoberfest, folks in Texas may have already heard recent radio ads featuring the Old 97’s for Shiner Beer (The Official State Beer of Texas, or at least it would be if I were in charge – f.e.). But in case you missed it, there’s also an accompanying web campaign, featuring a nifty video interview with our own Rhett Miller. I’ve seen a million of these things, but even I learned some cool stuff from this one, for example about one little-known band, The Hot Rockin’ Fonzies.

Also, on October 10th, the 97’s old label, Bloodshot releases its first-ever DVD, Bloodied But Unbowed: Bloodshot Records’ Life in the Trenches, a “collection of obscure live performances and behind-the-scenes looks at Ryan Adams, Old 97’s, Neko Case and Graham Parker among others. Many of these have never been seen outside of Bloodshot HQ.” The 97’s contribution? “Over The Cliff” at Chicago’s late, great at Lounge Axe.

And speaking of DVD’s, you may recall that in early 2005, the Old 97’s and several other great Texas bands put on a benefit concert which raised nearly $25,000 to help pay medical expenses for David Cuniff. The concert itself was later televised by Mark Cuban’s hi-def network, HDNet.

Now flash forward to this summer. Suddenly a DVD goes on sale, with Dale Earnhart Jr. on the cover, and featuring Old 97’s and O.A.R.. “Uh… whuh?” you say. Or at least that’s what I said. Turns out the Mr. Cuban’s minions sliced and diced up that concert footage, mixed it with any manner of other hi-def footage, and put it up for sale. As best we can tell, the amount from the sale of the DVD which has gone to Mr. Cuniff, or to the acts involved, is exactly $0. Thankfully, Texasgigs.com has been on this story like white on rice. Read all about it here.

Find out how one critic fell in love with the Old 97’s in this review of their “best of,” Hit By A Train. Another critic explains that, “If you’re already a fan of the Old 97’s, Hit By A Train: The Best of Old 97’s, will remind you why and it will send new fans on a mad dash to buy all of the bands previous recordings.” Another agrees, adding, “This is an eighteen song compilation, and I don’t think there is a clunker in the batch.” Amen.

Also, here’s old – though new-to-me, and great – interview with Rhett from 2004, and a recent reposting of another great interview, this one with Ken Bethea. Also, remember back in April when we mentioned how this Swiss band, The Peacocks, had covered stolen Ken Bethea’s “Timebomb” riff? Well, there are legit 97’s covers out there, one of the most fun being a jumped-up, punk-rock version of “Designs on You” from Love’s Proxy. Check it out.

I know I mentioned in the last update that we’d have more information on 97’s ringtones. And we do. Just not as much as I’d hoped. Those of you who’ve done your civic duty and purchased Hit By A Train might have noticed an insert therein which said, “Text OLD to 74466 & get Old 97’s ringtones & wallpapers.” Cool, right? Well I use Sprint. I tried it. I didn’t work for me. Hmm. However, I did run across a limited selection of Old 97’s ringtones here and here, and Rhett Miller ringtones here. More news on this as it comes in.

Finally, as frequently seems the case these past few years, the Old 97’s have been hard at work on New 97’s. On April 27th, Rhett and Erica welcomed Soleil Ahnece Miller into the world, while in January, Murry and Grey will become father and mother to their first child. So huge and heartfelt congratulations to Rhett, Erica, Murry, and Grey!

Now, I promise you won’t have to wait another eight weeks for an update, and we’ll soon have a second-of-its-kind offer to boot, so check back soon!

Hi everybody

June 8, 2006

Break-Up EP“Hi everybody.” Though I haven’t seen The Break-Up yet, I hear Murry gets to offer that patented welcome to a 97’s show, and that the guys kick out the jams on “Timebomb,” “Salome,” and “Melt Show.” To commemorate the occasion New West has released a four-song Old 97’s EP on iTunes, Old 97’s Live EP. The sampler includes the guys’ three Break-Up tracks plus “Ivy,” a.k.a., “Ivy’s Got A Boyfriend (Problem),” which is a rarely heard chestnut from the band’s earliest days. Check it out!

Also, for at least the past two years, the question most frequently answered with the word “no” here at Hit By A Train, has been “Can I get Old 97’s ringtones?” That looks like it’s about to change, as New West will likely be releasing some 97’s ringtones in the near future. Stay tuned for details and check back soon for more!

OK y’all, you may remember that the 97’s went up to Chicago to film a bit in a movie a few months back, wherein as part of the plot, the principals go to an Old 97’s show. Proof positive that whatever else the critics might say of the characters, they have undeniable good taste. The movie is of course The Break-Up with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, and it opens this weekend. Ken and Philip headed out Murry-way to El Lay a few days back for the red carpet premier, and Ken reports, “It was funny. Our scene is excellent.”

Hit By A TrainAnd don’t forget that the Old 97’s compilation, Hit By A Train: The Best of Old 97’s drops into stores on June 20, but you can pre-order it toady from Amazon.com at the link above!

And in keeping with our story last week on Rhett’s desert island discs, he’s got a couple of recommendations over at Amazon with some other overlooked yet terrific Albums You Should Hear.

Finally, the 97’s will be appearing on Fearless Music TV this weekend. Based in New York, the program airs Saturday nights at 1am on Fox 5 in NYC. If you’re not in The Apple, check out the time and channel listing for other stations on Fearless Music website at www.fearlessmusic.tv/channels.html.

The good folks at NYC’s Fearless Music have just posted a phenomenal in-studio performance of the Old 97’s “Won’t be Home.” It’s one of the best 97’s performance clips you’ll ever see, with nice production work, great sound, and an even better performance.

Also check out the MySpace page for a new Scrubs soundtrack, which features several cuts from both Old 97’s and Rhett Miller. (5/27 update: The soundtrack gets an “A” review here!) Speaking of Rhett, here’s a great April interview in The Tufts Daily, and his list of Desert Island Discs from Entertainment Weekly.

Finally, there are the beginnings of some faint rumblings to indicate the Old 97’s might be playing a series of dates early this Fall. More on those as we get closer!

We’ve had two of the tracks available for download for a while now, but have you ever heard the entire Old 97’s 1993 self-titled demo tape? Well now you can as one of the Old 97’s spots on MySpace has posted the entire four-song cassette! It was recorded before Philip even joined the band, as the liner notes read in part:

The Old 97’s are:

Rhett Miller – Lead Vocals, 6-String
Ken Bethea – Lead Guitar
Murry Hammond – Backup Vocals, Bass
Darin Lin Wood – Drums

Lisa Pankritz plays drums on “St. Ignatius”

It’s proto-97’s but good stuff. Check it out!

Since these tracks will only whet your appetite for fine music, why doncha just stay on MySpace and take a listen to the I Love Math page? You probably already know that our own Philip Peeples handles percussion duties for this great little supergroup of Dallas’ best musicians, and on May 20, I Love Math shares the stage at Deep Ellum’s Club Dada with Salim Nourallah. If you can find a better bill anywhere in Texas that night, you’d better go. But I bet you can’t find one.

Also for your listening pleasure is a new podcast interview with Rhett Miller from the folks at World Cafe Live.

And finally, don’t forget to sign up for the new and improved Old 97’s Official Mailing List. You won’t be flooded with SPAM, but will get first word on breaking news and goodies from the band, even before it’s posted here. Thanks!

Despite all the advantages they have in a fan-base (like good looks, great musical taste, and fanaticism 😉 one of the things the Old 97’s have not had in several years is a working official mailing list.

The short version of a long story: The Old 97’s had an official mailing list, but it hadn’t been pruned of old addresses since at least 1997, and now, after a zillion changes of ownership at an internet company which hosted it, it seems that the old list has finally assumed room temperature.

Well that ain’t right, and it’s high time to get this thing cranked up again. But this time, we’re using Yahoo Groups as a way to manage the list. So here’s the deal:

To sign up for the Official Old 97’s mailing list just click here, or simply send an e-mail here: Old97s_List-subscribe AT yahoogroups.com

More soon. Thanks!