Archive for 2011

Glossary Contest

December 28, 2011

Hopefully you’ve had time to peruse our fantastic Glossary section, written by the esteemed Godfather of, Captain Frank Early. It’s a treasure trove of Old 97’s trivia and interesting lyric commentary. However, it’s in dire need of an update, as we’re several albums behind in adding new tasty tidbits.

Glossary image

So we’re going to open the Glossary up for submissions for the first time ever. It’s a wide open, blank slate. Anything band-related, from origins of song lyrics to historical facts to statistics of questionable value. If you know something about the Old 97’s that you think others might like to know, write it up and send it in.

Submissions should be made via the site’s contact page. Just include your complete write-up, name and email address. A panel of experts will review every submission, the best ones will be added to the glossary, and the writers will be handsomely rewarded in some yet-to-be-determined most-likely-to-involve-autographed-merch way.

And I will personally award my favorite submission with one of my own bottles of the super rare, eminently collectible Old 97’s beer.

Photo by H. Michael Karshis (via Flickr)

Good luck!

An Open Letter from Rhett

November 25, 2011

Hi y’all,

Rhett Miller here. I’m writing to invite you into something very special.

I’ve been making albums for 16 years, and hopefully I will be doing it for at least 16 more. I love it. I love watching Jon Brion wheel into the studio some instrument that nobody knew existed, I love the silence of Kingsway Studios at 3am, I love the sight of Murry juggling while waiting to do another vocal take.

But there are other records I’ve wanted to make, more intimate and immediate ones, records that I’ve spent most of my life dreaming about making. I always assumed they would remain in the realm of dreams, mostly due to logistics and whiny bureaucrats and the expense of distribution. And then, like most of you, I woke up and realized that those barriers were gone.

So now I’m going to make those records.

In fact, I’ve already started. I’m in the midst of recording a set of songs that might be the best I’ve ever had. They are simple. They are strong. This will be called a solo record, but I’m not making it alone. I brought some of my favorite musicians into one of the most beautiful studios in the world, and I’m loving the results so far.

I can’t wait to share these songs with you. No middle-men, no gate-keepers… Just me and my friends, making music and delivering it to YOU.

Please don’t get me wrong… The record labels with which I’ve worked were stocked with badass music-lovers, and I’m not ruling out working with them in the future, but there have been massive changes in record labels and the record business. And now, thanks to the good old internet, I’m able to communicate directly with the fans. That is the coolest thing about all of this. The fourth wall has been brought down. The posing and false mystique of the old system is done. It’s a brave new world and I’m stoked.

I want to guide every aspect of the process this time around. So I’m producing the record myself, and I’ve started my own label, Maximum Sunshine Records.

And I need your help.

Let’s do it.

Join me on PledgeMusic.


A special guest fan review by Dr. David Welsh:

It was a big night for what has become a November tradition at Dallas’ Granada Theater: the annual Benefit for Cystic Fibrosis. For the past five years, Rhett has headlined this event dedicated to raising awareness and money for the fight against a crippling disease. Tonight set a new record for ticket sales, which should help the organizers go well past the $100,000 already brought in by previous performances.

Those willing to donate extra money for VIP passes were treated to a preshow meet-and-greet. Rhett opened a spontaneous mini-set with “Our Love,” then followed with the rarely performed “Sometimes” (at this reviewer’s personal request). The 50+ people in attendance sang the missing Murry parts perfectly on “Indefinitely,” which then provided the foundation for a frantic “Four-Leaf Clover.” Rhet was his usual gracious self, chatting with fans and posing for endless photos.

After the intimacy of the preshow, the doors opened and the Granada began to fill. Opening act The O’s were a marvel of sound and energy emanating from two dudes playing banjo, guitar, kick drum, tambourine, and lowebro pedal steel. Beautiful harmonies and a deprecating sense of humor all done up in a Louvain-meets-Everly-Brothers style seemed a perfect appetizer for an Old 97’s show. Sarah Jaffe followed. Her earnest brand of heart-wrenching vocals oozing sensitive vulnerability clearly pleased her many fans in the audience. This reviewer was concerned that if Jaffe’s set lasted any longer, he might start to grow ovaries.

Rhett finally took the stage at 10 PM. He planted his musical flag with the opening blast of “This Is What I Do,” and then never looked back. The setlist included three songs from his previous solo releases, two covers from his upcoming solo release (The Interpreter), a range of Old 97’s material concentrating on TFTC forward, a Christmas favorite, and a brand-new song performed for the very first time (perhaps titled “Sleepwalking”?) featuring the instantly classic couplet: “she had a prominent nose; she took off all of her clothes.” He performed a cheesy duet (the 80’s synth-pop chestnut “Only You”) with local radio personality Gordon Keith; and brought a young lady up from the audience to accompany him on “Firefly.”

Rhett - Granada - 11-11.1

Although between-song banter was kept to a minimum, we did learn that the Old 97’s were set to accompany Billy Bragg on a tour supporting Mermaid Avenue until their visas were cancelled at the last minute. Rhett’s rendition of the Woody Guthrie-penned “California Stars” from that album was a memorable moment in a memorable evening. Lyric flubs and broken strings were minimal during the 70-minute performance, but the energy on stage was high-octane throughout. Dramatic spit-takes erupted during “Doreen” and again for the encore of “Big Brown Eyes.” The sound quality was impeccable, the crowd was adoring, and a good time was had by all.

~ David Welsh

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The entire setlist was as follows:

1. This Is What I Do
2. Niteclub
3. Won’t Be Home No More
4. Singular Girl
5. Here It Is Christmastime
6. Rollerskate Skinny
7. California Stars (cover)
8. The El
9. Doreen
10. Question
11. [new one] “Sleepwalking”?
12. Designs on You
13. Barrier Reef
14. Only You (cover) duet w/Gordon Keith
15. Firefly
16. Champaign, IL
17. Perfume
18. A State of Texas
19. Our Love

1. Big Brown Eyes
2. American Girl (cover)
3. Timebomb

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Rhett is hard at work on a new solo album to be released next spring, but in the meantime there’s an excellent new album coming out very soon. You can now pre-order “The Interpreter: Live at Largo” on iTunes. Rhett talks about this mostly live, mostly solo acoustic album in the video below.

Deep Ellum Comes Alive

October 16, 2011

Last night The Dallas Observer held their Music Awards Showcase in the streets of the Big D’s famed (and infamous) Deep Ellum. Sarah Jaffee, Centro-Matic, Old 97’s and The Toadies kicked off the festivities on the main stage constructed in the street with the sparkling Dallas skyline as their backdrop. Afterwards roughly 50 bands played in multiple clubs throughout the district, entertaining revelers as well as Zombies until late into the morning.

By all accounts, the guys nailed it, busting it open 97’s style in front of a packed street.

image by Rachel Parker of Dallas Observer


image by Neff Conner


image by Branton Ellerbee


image by Rachel Parker of the Dallas Observer


image by Rachel Parker (hair by Rhett)


You knew St. Ignatius had to be on the setlist, right?

(Thanks to TheBourneBlogger for archiving the evening on YouTube.)

Later Philip and Rhett picked up the sticks to lend a hand on the skins during the Toadies set. Who wouldn’t want to see video of this? If anyone stumbles across any, please post in comments.

image by Rachel Parker

Looks like it was a an amazing night to be roaming the streets of Dallas’ music scene, with or without brain-munching Zombies.

There are more photos of the evening for your viewing pleasure  here.

Read an oral history of Deep Ellum by the artists who inhabited its clubs back in the day here.