Archive for July, 2011

Two days after the release of TGTV2, the Old 97’s hit the road to continue this incredible touring streak that they’ve been on for the past year. They just give and they give and then give some more, and we insatiable fans are grateful for every fix. While they rest up for next month’s California run, here is a roundup of links, reviews, and more from the last leg.

The guys kicked things off at Summerfest in Milwaukee, where the new tunes were well-received, according to Piet Levy’s review on The Tap Milwaukee site. The band played some fan-favorites from past albums as well, including Satellite Rides’ Question which set the scene for another 97’s style proposal. Hooray for love, Wisco sweethearts!

The next day, Rhett stopped by Nashville’s Lightning 100, where he treated listeners to an acoustic performance or Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You), and Perfume. In between songs, Rhett describes the latest album as a return to a more “raw, garagey sound,” and shares the agony of creating a balanced setlist that will satisfy the crowd.

Katie Darby reviewed the second night in Nashville with high praise for opening acts, Robert Ellis and Those Darlin’s. As for the Old 97’s set, Katie writes,  “I’m consistently blown away by how good their music feels live.” Right on. Long-time fans know what to expect when they go to a show, and yet, there is always a euphoric moment when the crowd connects with the band’s explosive energy. “The fact of the matter is that the Old 97′s are a band with two songwriters talented enough to be frontmen, one of the most frighteningly talented live guitarists I’ve ever seen, and a drummer who works like a machine.” For more well-written highlights from her Nashville experience, visit Katie’s blog.

After a day off, the Old 97’s were in my neck of the urban woods of Charm City. Marie, my partner-in-crime, flew in from Pittsburgh to join me and my friend Dave for another incredible night of rock. One great thing about this community of fans is how incredibly cool you all are. There were a lot of friendly and familiar faces in the crowd. (If I ever meet you in person, ask me how friendly even unfamiliar faces can be at an Old 97’s show.)

Six days after the release, fans were singing along, or at least taken by the spirit of all of the new songs. From Volume Two, the band played, No Simple Machine, Brown Haired Daughter, Trainwreck, White Port, You Call It Rain, and Marquita/Bright Spark. I think Baltimore liked it, you guys.

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One of the great moments from the Ram’s Head Live show occurred during Rhett’s solo performance of Come Around. I can’t imagine that an artist ever tires of hearing his lyrics from a (drunken) choir of adoring fans. Indeed, he seems pleased to hear the angelic (drunken) singalong at the end of this song.


During White Port, the spirit moved Ken to invite everyone to a local bar after the show. Fortunately for the Cat’s Eye Pub in Fell’s Point, it was a Monday night so it was not a mob of insanity that piled into the bar, but a great number of fans were happy to buy their favorite guitarist and bass player a beer and hang out for a while. So cool, right?!

Hours later, the band raced northeast on I-95 towards The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. In the forum, a fan from The Stone Pony show shares how his ten year old brother had the time of his life. Read matthewconte’s post, 4th below the setlist.

Following the Stone Pony, the Old 97’s rocked Brooklyn’s Bell House for two extraordinary nights. Blogger Carene Lydia Lopez paints a fun front-row visual of how they miraculously land on their feet despite their airborne stage antics.

I made it to the second show at The Bell House and can attest to the amazing energy of the room that night. In the midst of a blistering setlist, the Old 97’s gave a couple more fans a night to cherish. Front and center of the stage, George and Maria, regulars at shows in the Northeast, were happy to see their favorite band on George’s birthday. Rhett and Murry wished him a happy one before treating him (and the rest of us!) with W. TX Teardrops, If My Heart Was A Car, and Lashes, all in his honor. As if their talent wasn’t enough to keep fans captivated, they’re really a generous group of gentlemen who appreciate their fans.

Following the two night stand in Brooklyn, the band played two shows in Massachusetts. First, a show at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet, then at the Green River Festival in Greenfield.

Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images

Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images

The next stop on this tour was another two-night stand, this time at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. Annielixir shares her thoughts about the shows in the fan forum. Apparently, the shows were filmed for a press kit for future European dates. Old 97’s fans abroad, get ready… After reading her review, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stop myself from doing the hand jive the next time I hear Bright Spark!

Rolling into Minnesota, the Old 97’s stopped by 89.3 The Current. This 20 minute interview and performance can be heard here.

Kansas City, MO and Norman, OK were the next cities that were graced with the presence of rock and roll greatness.

In the Oklahoma Gazette, Rhett talks about the heavy touring that the band has been doing and alludes to more to come… “We’ve already got a best-of and a live album. And the 20th anniversary will be March 2013, which is around the time the next studio album will come out. And then we’ll go on our 20th anniversary tour.” Can we just declare 9/7/13 a holiday? 97’s day on a Saturday in their 20th year as a band seems to be a good time for some sort of crazy wrecker event. (Just trying to plant seeds over here.)

The Old 97’s wrapped this rather epic run in their home state of Texas, at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Rhett performed the National Anthem, the Rangers beat the Blue Jays, and then the happy fans danced in celebration as the band took the stage for a post-game show. In an interview with Amanda Cobra of, Rhett discusses potential walk-out songs for Rangers players, Texan musicians he admires, and he learns about a mashup called, “Rhett Midler.” Warning, once you see this, you cannot unsee this.

Cheers to Rhett, Murry, Ken, and Philip for another round of rock and roll excellence. Fans are loving the new album and the songs are sounding fantastic live. California awaits your return next month!




UPDATE – The deadline for the new t-shirt contest is 8/7, so get your entries in!

We celebrated the launch of The Grand Theatre Vol. One with a t-shirt design contest that resulted in the fantastic new motel shirt. So we’ve decided to do it again for The Grand Theatre Vol. 2, but with a new wrinkle: this time, the design theme has to reflect one of the songs on Volume 2. All you have to do is:

• Design an Old 97’s t-shirt that’s based on a song from TGTV2

1. Brown Haired Daughter
2. I’m A Trainwreck
3. Perfume
4. The Actor
5. No Simple Machine
6. White Port
7. Ivy
8. Manhattan (I’m Done)
9. Marquita
10. Bright Spark (See What I Mean)
11. Visiting Hours
12. How Lovely All It Was
13. You Call It Rain

• Upload your design to the t-shirt contest Flickr group

• The band will select finalists and post them to Facebook for voting the second week of August

The winner will get an awesome prize package that includes tix to a show and a meet & greet with the band, some exclusive autographed merch and the joy of seeing his or her shirt printed and worn by rabid fans from coast to coast.

Here are the 5 random winners from the TGTV2 launch day contest. Just use the form on the contact page to send me your address and I’ll get an autographed CD in the mail to you ASAP.

Carey Ann Hays


Thanks everyone who participated, and everyone who shares the love with your friends. No need to stop now.

A collection of reviews of The Grand Theatre Vol. 2:

The Salt Lake Tribune
“It is consistent, endlessly fun, and sounds great emanating from the opened sunroof of your car on a warm summer day, with a honky-tonk feel that still isn’t off-putting to those who say they hate country music.”

Washington Post

“…continues the Old 97s’ long winning streak with the sort of cavalier excellence that makes the arduous sound easy.”

Rolling Stone
3 1/2 stars
“…places Rhett Miller’s articulate, off-the-cuff songs right between the composure of the control room and the looseness of the barroom.”

Paste Magazine
“The Olds are still finding new ways to mix the country they love with the pop they love even more, and the result is a dusty sound that’s nervous and coiled, never laconic or casual like so many other Lone Star acts.”

USA Today
3 out of 4 stars
“As good as Miller’s songs are, guitarist Ken Bethea is the real attention-grabber, with a style that’s part trucker twang, part psychedelic garage, with a touch of surf-rock on instrumental ‘Marquita’.”

Nashville Scene
“…a welcome distillation of the band’s myriad charms.”

Old 97′s are proud to release The Grand Theatre Vol. 2, their ninth studio album, today via New West Records. TGTV2 features 13 brand new songs and is once again produced by Salim Nourallah (The Grand Theatre Volume One and Blame It On Gravity.)

Get it on iTunes >

Get it on Amazon MP3 downloads >

Download the first track — “Brown Haired Daughter” — for free on our media page.

Read the reviews here.

– ! –

Everyone who tweets or posts this message to their Facebook wall today has a chance to win one of several autographed copies of the new CD:

New @old97s album is out today! Go get it:

New @Old 97’s album is out today! Go get it:
(On Facebook, be sure to officially “tag” the Old 97’s page in your wall post so we can see it!)

– ! –

Don’t forget that there’s a t-shirt design contest going on to celebrate the launch.

The full TGTV2 track listing, with a link to commentary on each song (from a mix of Murry and Ken and site editors)

1. Brown Haired Daughter
2. I’m A Trainwreck
3. Perfume
4. The Actor
5. No Simple Machine
6. White Port
7. Ivy
8. Manhattan (I’m Done)
9. Marquita
10. Bright Spark (See What I Mean)
11. Visiting Hours
12. How Lovely All It Was
13. You Call It Rain

You can listen to “You Call It Rain” and the rest of The Grand Theatre Vol. 2 streaming on And you can get your own copy on July 5th!

JEFF: “You Call It Rain” is a surprising end to an outstanding album, a light-hearted, buoyant little tune about being happy wherever you are, whatever life throws at you. You could dig into it for some deep metaphors about the band — when you’ve got four guys who’ve stuck together for almost two decades, against all odds, making great music and being happy with their lot in life when many in their shoes would be bitter about Fame being such a fickle flirt. But what’s the point. Search for meaning if you must. I’m going back to track one, cranking it up, and enjoying the ride. In the end, the work speaks for itself, and Fame knows where she can go.

KEN:* …the best amp story has to do with this little amp called a Newcome that was at the studio. It’s probably from the 40’s or early 50’s and it’s tiny. Like, 5 watts and a 4″ speaker. It really sounded like crap but it looked really cool. I kept tinkering with it, trying to make it not suck. At some point I plugged in a little 7-channel Boss EQ and EQ’d it kind of weird (I put the ones on the end and the one in the middle all the way up, and the others all the way down.) As soon as I started playing it I knew it I had struck gold. I was making a little “auto-wah” sound that Philip came running in and said it sounded like a duck. So it became known as the “duck amp.” You can hear it on “You Call It Rain” on Volume 2. It’s hot.

*Originally appeared here.

STEPHANIE: You’d think I’d know by now that when an Old 97’s song sounds kind of happy, I should be suspicious. Nope. Even though I was bummed that it was the last song on the disc, this song seemed delightful. Right?

In my brain video, the woman is in the driver’s seat because at least  metaphorically, she usually is. She’s pretty ticked off because of the timing of this storm. They have a THING to get to! Mr. Optimist in the passenger seat is kind of irritating, and he’s trying to make her laugh. 

Second verse, I imagine that she’s warming up a little. She lets him put the radio on, maybe cracks a smile at the poor bastard. 

When we get to that last verse; however, it seems that he may have had some ‘splainin’ to do. Of course, he’s still trying to win her (back) over (to the way it was way back when) with a cheeky wink and poke in the ribs. 

Okay, maybe it’s not as dark as a jaunty 97’s song could be, but it’s definitely more interesting than a typical poppy love song. Another favorite. Who am I kidding? I have about six favorite songs on this album! After several listens in the last two weeks, this album is in my top three of all of their albums. The cumulative talent of the guys shines throughout the album. Like a fine wine, baby…  

Looking very forward to my next 97’s show so I can sing along to all of my new favorites. Maybe they can just add 45 minutes to their typical set and add this album in its entirety? Too much to ask? Whether they honor this request or not, I am one happy wrecker with thirteen new tunes that have exceeded my high expectations. Thanks, Old 97’s, for another amazing album. How do you do it?! 

MARIE: “You Call It Rain” just plain makes me happy. Hearing Ken’s four opening notes with Philip’s kicky, stick raps, immediately produces an enormous ear-to-ear smile across my face. In signature 97’s fashion, this buoyant, head-bopping melody is the perfect foil to the layered, not-quite-as-happy-as-it-sounds lyrics. A sudden cloudburst is the perfect excuse for our protagonist to be happily trapped in the car in the company of his special girl.

We can make due
Make time while the radio plays a song
Wait out the rain
Although I hope it goes on and on
Right now is a pretty good time

Is he merely trying to placate her dampened mood with his contagious optimism, or is he attempting to make amends for some past transgression?

I believe we all call the shots
We all write the plots
I believe love finds a way
What did you expect me to say?

You call it too late
I call it a chance at a second wind
We can go back
Way back to the way it was way back when
Right now is a pretty good time

With a lighthearted, breezy tone, “You Call It Rain” is the perfect final act before the curtain drops on the Grand Theatre. Like a finely crafted musical, Volume 2 ends with a catchy, crowd-pleasing earworm that will have the audience singing all the way home.

I didn’t think it was possible to outdo Volume One, but damned if our favorite foursome hasn’t done just that. This thing is incredible The perfect follow up to the musical force that is Volume One. I LOVE this album start to finish. From the first listen, it caught me in its spell and I’m drawn in further with each subsequent spin.

Rhett has been quoted as saying Volume One is epistolary, a series of letters back and forth. I would suggest Volume Two is more a collection of short stories, vignettes of the human condition fraught with themes of unattainable love, lamentation and a wee bit of loathing, all cleverly masked under irresistible, upbeat melodies that defy one’s body to stand still. I’ve lived with this CD for two weeks, and there’s no sign of it coming out of my player any time soon.

Back-to-back albums filled to the brim with future favorites and a touring schedule that goes on well into 2012… Right now IS a pretty darn good time to be an Old 97’s fan.

Volume 2 drops tomorrow, and the fun picks up again on July 7th. See you on the road!

Song-a-Day Countdown Table of Contents

Something a little different for this month’s New Music Monday — the first track from The Grand Theatre Vol. 2, “Brown Haired Daughter.” Some of you were able to download this one on Facebook, but there were some technical difficulties over there. So now it’s up on the media page for everyone. Go, help yourself, tell your friends, and get ready for the rest of the album in just one short day.

Have a great July 4th!

You can listen to “How Lovely It All Was” and the rest of The Grand Theatre Vol. 2 streaming on

MURRY: This is a goodbye to a friend that passed away in 2006. It was one of those sad stories — his heart was weakened because of his drug abuse, and his heart failure happened after he had sobered up. The damage was done, and he left us. His name was Alex Magosci. He had been the music editor at the Observer for a couple years, the exact years being lost in my memory. I knew him because when I had to leave home his mother gave me my first job. Alex and I became friends and I took him to his first “underground gig” in Deep Ellum, which was the hardcore punk band Gang Green from Boston at the old Liberty Hall. He was a talented drummer, and I tried to do a band with him for a time when we all lived in New Mexico, but ended up producing Rhett’s first CD and deepening my involvement with Rhett and putting everything else on the backburner, including my band with Alex. It was hard to hear of his passing, especially the way he went, and I wrote a song about how it felt to get the news and how it was to move on.

STEPHANIE: “How Lovely All It Was” is an exquisite farewell song. Murry’s wistful vocals offer a tribute that is both sad and soothing. Before Murry shared who this song was about, I knew that this was not a meaningless collection of words that rhymed. The bittersweet lyrics and their delicate accompaniment were clearly born out of a grieving heart. Everyone can relate to this in some way as we all have, or will say goodbye to someone that we love. The best part of this song, in my opinion, is the comfort of the last verse.

The sun moves up and on, and so must we my friend
How lovely all it was, how lovely all it was

Moving on can feel like impossible betrayal at the peak of mourning, but that simple titular lyric says that this beautiful life and friendship will not be forgotten, even as the unbearable pain fades away.


If I don’t see you again this way tomorrow
And my body doesn’t break under the sorrow I swallow
I’ll see you alone tomorrow
by and by

I have two words for this song: Achingly Beautiful.

Before I read Murry’s story behind the song, I thought “How Lovely All It Was” was about moving forward after the bittersweet resignation to the end of a long-term relationship with a woman who will forever occupy a corner of his heart. Knowing it’s about the unexpected death of a long-time friend makes this even more heartbreaking. Stephanie’s review says it all far more eloquently than I can. I will only say every aspect of this song is gorgeous. Well done, Murry.

JEFF: And out of left field comes the Murry song I can’t stop listening to. Cindy described this as “the Murry song that doesn’t sound like a Murry song” and we both agreed it’s a highlight on the album. It doesn’t sound like an Old 97’s song, necessarily, either. But it fits the recurring theme of sadness expressed in a non-sad way, and the breezy harmonies and jangly acoustics carry an undeniable weight. There’s a timeless air to it, a sense that maybe it’s a cover of some obscure 60’s song from a California band that tragically broke up before they ever broke out.

Song-a-Day Countdown Table of Contents

You can listen to the full-band version of “Visiting Hours” and the rest of The Grand Theatre Vol. 2 streaming on

MARIE: Visiting Hours is the remake I’ve been most looking forward to hearing. I’m late to the Ranchero Brothers party, but from the minute I heard them play it on a YouTube video from one of the Christmas show at Sons of Herman Hall in 2009, I instantly took to this clever, old-school tale of drunken, youthful obsession and the bad decisions it inspires.

Happy Hour is almost over
Hope I can walk on my own power
I find your house/ I break your window/ I crash your bedroooooom
These are the visiting hours

One of my favorites from an album that is fraught with them, this retelling has a faster, juicier Old 97’s stamp on it than the original. And boy, does it NOT disappoint. It’s fantastic! The quicker cadence lends a welcomed level of recklessness to this shot and Shiner Bock of a tune. It’s yet another song by which I torture my coworkers with my constant humming. Clearly they suffer my love of all things Old 97’s. Ha Ha!

I live far from Texas, so chances are high I’ll never be treated to a Ranchero’s show (insert sad face here) that is, unless Paco and Flaco decide to hit the road in their down time. I know a great little place in Western PA that would be perfect por los Hermanos Rancheros. Just sayin’…

JEFF: The first time I saw the full track listing for TGTV2, I knew there’d be at least one song I’d love. (Aw, who’m I kidding, I knew there would be more than one, but you know what I mean.) I’ve been a fan of this song for years, since I discovered it in my heavy Old 97’s/Ranchero Brothers bootleg phase back in the early oughts. “Visiting Hours” was one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar. I think I’ve even done it at an open mic back in the day.

So, yeah. This is classic Old 97’s to me, and it’s déjà vu all over again — a Ranchero Brothers song is a highlight of TGTV2, just like “Champaign, Il” on TGTV1. (Side note: once again, you really have to marvel at that lost Ranchero Brothers album, and the endless parade of 5-star tracks it would have been. Sigh.)

“Visiting Hours” is another reason I think old school fans will love this album as much as new converts. Like “Ivy,” even if you haven’t heard it before, it fits right in with the band’s catalog. And it feels right at home here on TGTV2.

Song-a-Day Countdown Table of Contents

We’re just a few days away from the release of The Grand Theatre Vol. 2 on July 5th, and the excitement is starting to build. So every day between now and then, we’re going to reward your patience with a “first look” at a song from the album, with first impressions from Marie, Stephanie and myself. One or more of the boys will weigh in at times as well, so check back every day to learn what goodies are coming to those who wait.

The Song-A-Day Countdown Schedule:

6/22 – 1. Brown Haired Daughter
6/23 – 2. I’m A Trainwreck
6/24 – 3. Perfume
6/25 – 4. The Actor
6/26 – 5. No Simple Machine
6/27 – 6. White Port
6/28 – 7. Ivy
6/29 – 8. Manhattan (I’m Done)
6/30 – 9. Marquita
7/1 – 10. Bright Spark (See What I Mean)
7/2 – 11. Visiting Hours
7/3 – 12. How Lovely All It Was
7/4 – 13. You Call It Rain

You can hear the entire album streaming on