Archive for 2006

So many of us have done it already; you know, make an Old 97’s “Best Of” mix for the unknowing or unconverted among our friends, family, and neighbors. Granted, with thirteen years worth of albums, singles, one-off’s, B-Sides, live boots and the like all floating around out there, making a mix like that can be a serious if satisfying project. Well this June will finally see an an official Old 97’s Best Of album for fans ranging from the uninitiated to the completist, called… and boy, I do like the title… HIT BY A TRAIN: THE BEST OF OLD 97’s. Here’s the skinny from today’s press release:

RHINO RIDES THE RAILS WITH OLD 97’S

HIT BY A TRAIN Features 18 of the Old 97’s Best Songs From the Band’s First Five Studio Albums, Plus Singles, Live Tracks and More

Available June 20 From Rhino Records

LOS ANGELES – The Old 97’s debut in 1994 and its acclaimed follow-up a year later on Bloodshot Records established Rhett Miller, Murry Hammond, Ken Bethea and Philip Peeples as indie-rock’s favorite cowpunks. After signing with Elektra in 1997, the Dallas quartet recorded a trio of artistically restless albums that found Miller refining his emotional lyricism and the band tightly coiling around power pop arrangements. Rhino shakes its caboose with a collection of classic tracks from the band’s first seven years. HIT BY A TRAIN: THE BEST OF OLD 97’s is available from Rhino on June 20 at regular retail outlets and at www.rhino.com for a suggested list price of $18.98.

The compilation gathers 18 songs released between 1994 and 2001, including songs from the band’s first five studio albums, plus singles, live performances and a soundtrack contribution. Sequenced chronologically, HIT BY A TRAIN opens with songs from the band’s indie releases including “Stoned” from Hitchhike to Rhome (the band’s 1994 debut on Big Iron), along with “Cryin’ Drunk,” “Doreen” and “Victoria,” a trio of songs subsequently released on Bloodshot Records.

A majority of the songs on the collection originally appeared on the group’s acclaimed albums with Elektra,­ Too Far to Care (1997), Fight Songs (1999) and Satellite Rides (2001). HIT BY A TRAIN includes critical and fan favorites such as “Timebomb,” “Jagged,” “Murder (Or A Heart Attack),” “Rollerskate Skinny,” “Four Leaf Clover” (with former X singer Exene Cervenkova) and “Valentine,” an acoustic track featuring Hammond taking a rare turn on lead vocals.

HIT BY A TRAIN is rounded out with “The Villain,” a B-side from 1999; a cover of the Marty Robbins classic “El Paso” that surfaced on the soundtrack for the television series King of the Hill; plus a pair of live songs “Barrier Reef” and “Nineteen”­ from the bonus disc included with special versions of Satellite Rides.

HIT BY A TRAIN: THE BEST OF OLD 97’S
Track Listing:

1. “Stoned”
2. “Cryin’ Drunk”
3. “Doreen”
4. “Victoria”
5. “Timebomb”
6. “Niteclub”
7. “Four Leaf Clover”
8. “El Paso”
9. “Jagged”
10. “Lonely Holiday”
11. “Murder (Or A Heart Attack)”
12. “Valentine”
13. “The Villain”
14. “King Of All Of The World”
15. “Question”
16. “Rollerskate Skinny”
17. “Barrier Reef” Live
18. “Nineteen” Live

Me? I’ve got slightly mixed emotions. One one hand, this hopefully won’t mean we’ll not be getting a new 97’s album for a while longer yet. On the other, if HBAT gets a concise collection of great Old 97’s music into the hands of potential new fans, hell yes, it needs to be released today. And… well… did I mention that I like the title? Another big plus: You gotta hope the guys might hit the road to support this baby!

But how’d you like to get you hands on an amazing new track from the Old 97’s right now. Free. It’s called “Rolling Stone From Texas,” a cover of a Don Walser original, recorded live one sweltering night last summer at Greune Hall during the the sessions taped for Alive & Wired. It’s on New West SXSW eMusic Sampler 2006 with nine other great cuts, and available via emusic.com just by clicking here. It kicks about a hundred miles of ass, so get it now!

Speaking of new 97’s tracks, while it’s been out for a couple of months, I somehow managed to just recently get hold of For a Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records, on which the 97’s just kill with a rollicking great take on Robbie Fulks‘ “I’d Be Lonesome.” Check it out if you haven’t already. And if you’re heading to the movies this weekend, you might consider Slither, which features some of the most squirm-inducing mating and birthing scenes of any film ever made, and rolls its closing credits to the dulcet tones of the (somehow thematically related?) “New Kid,” by the Old 97’s.

One of the joys of being such a 97’s fanboy has been to get to see evidence of their music and influence spread across the globe. We already know that Yokohama mamas love them some Rhett Miller, but didja know that Bethea’s big in Bern? Bern Switzerland, that is. Apparently so, as just this week it’s come to my attention that there’s a nifty little Swiss punkabilly group called The Peacocks, who… well… reference, no… pay homage, that’s not right either… OK let’s just say they flat out steal Ken’s riff from “Timebomb” on their song “Ladies Night.” How can one tell? Well, just listen for yourself on the MySpace page of The Peacocks’ label, Sprinter Records. “Will an ASCAP representative please pick up the white courtesy phone?”

Not surprisingly, Rhett is knee deep in the news, and out on the road in support of The Believer, for which he’s getting loads of well-deserved props. No, it’s not an Old 97’s album, but I LOVE this CD. Catchy and shimmering smart pop like this just doesn’t get made much anymore, and it’s a treat. You can catch up with some of Rhett’s recent reviews and press here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Also, check out a nifty YouTube clip of him with The Believers here. And with all that’s going on, word was he cancelled the second of his two recent Dallas gigs because of even bigger news: Rhett’s lovely bride Erica is due any second with their second child. So hearty congratulations all around to the Millers.

B
ut before that happened, Rhett last week taped an edition of Last Call with Carson Daily, which airs this Friday night (April 10) on NBC. Word is he’ll play several cuts of The Believer, and you’d better believe I’ll be there.

Finally, I’ve updated the Tour Dates page with a couple of changes and recently announced dates on Rhett’s tour. The man puts on a hell of a show, sprinkled with classic and reworked versions of your 97’s favorites. So if he’s coming to your town, go!

Howdy kids! Well wouldn’t you know it, the airline bidness finally released your webmaster from the suffocating death-grip of training, so next time I go to work (Wednesday! Wednesday! Wednesday! Danger!) it’ll be at the controls of a real live aircraft, for the first time since September 28. So should you be taking a trip thusly, stick your head up in the cockpit and say “hi.” But please don’t try that while in flight. You know.

So Old 97’s… what the heck are the guys up to? Ken, for one, is taking the stage, but this time he sure ain’t strapping on a Telecaster. I’ll let him tell you:

Hey for you guys in Dallas, I’m in a play that opens the weekend of the 26th in Garland at the Garland Arts Center (next the the Dart Station in Downtown).

The show is “The Philadelphia Story”, which was a an old screwball comedy from 1940 I believe. I play a small role, Thomas the butler (“Is there anything else, Madame?”) but it’s the first non-musical role I’ve had in a show since I was a junior in high school so it’s what I wanted.

All the information about when the show runs is on the website I believe. If you guys get a chance, check it out…

Unfortunately, that’s all I have on stage until maybe summer or fall. With Rhett’s cd coming out and his new baby, (his wife is pregnant, you guys probably know), 2006 will be tough on the 97’s getting to do any tours. 🙁

I guess that’s life in the slow lane though.

You guys be safe,

ken

Rhett on the other hand, takes the stage on March 17 at Austin’s annual South By Southwest Festival, at 8pm at Eternal. Expect that date to be just one of many on Rhett’s tour to support The Believer, which drops into stores on February 28. And speaking of… Rhett has a copy of one of his cuts off The Believer “Brand New Way” up on his MySpace page. Take a listen! The full track listing looks like this:

1. My Valentine
2. Help Me, Suzanne
3. Meteor Shower
4. Brand New Way
5. Ain’t That Strange
6. I Believe She’s Lying
7. Fireflies
8. Singular Girl
9. I’m With Her
10. Delicate
11. The Believer
12. Question

Blender says it’s chock-a-block with “knock ’em dead songs,” and Esquire names it their record of the month, saying: “After more than a decade of strum and twang with Dallas’s alt-country pioneering Old 97’s, Rhett Miller is releasing as his second solo album a heaping mound of creamy pop confection, albeit a twisted sort in which the title track wrestles with Elliott Smith’s suicide and the album credits throw shout-outs to Albert Camus, David Cross, Owen Wilson, and Kurt Vonnegut. And those aren’t exactly random muses: The Believer is literate, funny, sexy, and geekishly scientific. (At one point, a fatal attraction is actually blamed on plate tectonics.) [It] is all of those things and still eminently listenable…”

You gotta guess it’s going to be great, and before we leave the topic, Rolling Stone’s has a sneak peak too. Check it out.

After much refurbishing and remodeling, Murry and Grey recently got their bed & breakfast, Bayou Amulet House, built in 1853, up and running in Natchitoches, Louisiana. As soon as Murry forwards a better link, I’ll get that posted. In the meantime, send your good thoughts his way, and take it from someone who knows: Owning an old home is God’s way of telling you that you’ve got too much free time and disposable income.

Let’s back up a sec and talk more Blender, as I see that a couple of months back, they named the Old 97’s “Murder (Or A Heart Attack)” as one of the Top 500 Songs Since You Were Born. Their stub reads, “Girl sneaks out window, boy searches for her and leaves door open in case girl wants to return. Boy realizes girl, on return, might kill him.” Is that what the song said? Hmmm. So would you like to contribute to the world of Old 97’s knowledge? Good, because now’s your chance. A few enterprising souls with exceptional musical taste have ginned up the makings of an Old 97’s page at Wikipedia.

And didja catch those New Years Eve-ish shows from the Old 97’s? I did, and so did writers at both Dallas and Austin papers. Anyone there had to know in their bones that, even as a live disc, A&W made more than a few year-end “best of” lists!

Here’s another:

The Old 97’s would be playing amped-up roots music even if nobody had decided to create a genre around it. It’s what this band of miscreants, led by songwriter Rhett Miller, has been doing well since 1993.

The band has released some splendid studio music, but its reputation and legend revolve around its wondrously ramshackle, high-energy live shows. As such, Alive & Wired – the band’s two-disc, 30-song live set – is an album long overdue.

Live, the Old 97’s are the cow-punk equivalent of The Replacements – delightfully sloppy, probably drunk, dripping sweat, basking in the stench-and-stains that accompany detonating barroom bunkhouse rock ‘n’ roll. The sound is as uneven as the performances – and, in this case, that’s a good thing. The songs are fine ‘n’ dandy, but it’s the exuberance and passion of the performances, recorded over two nights in a sweltering Texas club – that make this set something special.

It may not be pretty, but it’s real. Alive & Wired is the sound of truth. All that remains is to see if the world can handle the truth.

So you say you missed the 97’s NYE shows? Well now you know you missed great, great gigs. For your penance go a listen to Alive & Wired again. Now go and sin no more. For now.