As 2014 comes to a close, please indulge us as we reflect back on the incredible year that was for this band we all adore.
April delivered unto the Universe a 10th album, Most Messed Up, as rowdy, raucous and youthful as the 97’s stellar first effort 20 years prior. MMU is so full of life, piss and vinegar, delivered with the skill of a band of musical brothers who know EXACTLY who they are at this stage of the game, and make no excuses for it.
All Old 97’s albums are greeted with open arms by fans, but this one… this one was special. This one was more personal. This one gives an honest account of what it is to live life as a musician. The highs, the lows, the justification of vocation, along with a couple signature, whip-smart narrative tales that hook you right in.
The critics noticed, too. Reveiw after review, they threw accolades instead of underwear at our favorite foursome’s opus. MMU marked their highest spot ever on Billboard’s chart, logging in at number 30.
Truth be told, there were a few unmentionables tossed Rhett’s way. I’m looking at you, WXPN members.
As fans, we could not have asked for a greater gift to celebrate Spring. Well, okay, maybe an accompanying touring season.
Held ten days prior to the official release date, the guys played a special CD release homecoming at the AT&T Performing Arts in Dallas. Sharing the stage with Black Joe Lewis, Slobberbone and Madison King, the evening was a happy peak in a year full of high points.
Dallas was the precursor to an extensive tour in support of MMU in which the band was accompanied on the road by the dynamic, female-lead bands of Nikki Lane, Lydia Loveless and Madison King. It was all about the ladies. Each of these lovelies joined Rhett on stage to put her spin on 4 Leaf Clover.
Oh yeah, then there was this one amazing east coast beach run with none other than Tommy Stinson! I can personally vouch for this leg. The Stone Pony gig in particular was off-its-head good. Beach, boardwalk and bikinis bring out the best in these four lads.
And then there was that one crazy night in Brooklyn when the power went out, canceling the show. That didn’t deter Rhett and Murry from taking their act on the road, literally. They performed a mini concert at the backstage door for the stranded fans.
And people wonder why we’re such devoted fans.
2014 also brought the release of the first music video since 2008’s Dance With Me. An entertaining glimpse at the tour life habits of our favorite foursome, Let’s Get Drunk and Get It On includes a fun tongue-in-cheek peek into the secret of Rhett’s youthful appearance. I don’t know about you, but the elevator muzak version of this rocker alone is worth its weight in gold.
During their west coast run, the guys hooked up with Rainn Wilson’s Soul Pancake to record a sidewalk session of Longer Than You’ve Been Alive.
And let’s not forget their opening title cameo on The Daily Show when Jon and the gang visited Austin. That’s some crazy cowboy gear right there. Okay, we all can totally see Murry wearing that shirt for real, right? That thing was made for him!
Not only was 2014 a celebration of this new, spirited album, it also was the 20th anniversary of Old 97’s debut album, Hitchhike to Rhome. Recorded in a matter of days on a shoe-string budget, the songs and themes are just as poignant now as then. To commemorate this 20-year milestone, Rip Rowan was entrusted with engineering an anniversary reissue including a dozen demos, and a couple of never-released songs, all of which came out in November. Rip talks at length about his thoughts on the re-release here.
To mark the milestone, the band played HTR in its entirety on a four-night Texas run in December. Lucky fans traveled from near and far to take a step back in time. The final show took place in the beautiful Majestic theater in Dallas, booked by their onetime manager and former Killbilly drummer, Mike Schwedler. It was a This Is Your Life time capsule affair with individuals like Alan Wooley (former guitarist of Killbilly and producer of HTR) joining the band on stage and back stage to reminise. That evening the band came full circle–beginning and ending on Elm Street– only this time in a much, MUCH nicer venue.
The final weeks of 2014 saw Most Messed Up land on a huge number of “Best Of” lists, including WXPN’s David Dye’s. And the 97’s took home some hardware from the Dallas Observer Music Awards for Best Album, Best Alt-Country Act and Best Male Vocalist.
The band are closing out this magical year with a double shot in DC for New Year’s Eve. When the bell strikes midnight, these four talented Texans can raise their glasses and give a toast to one helluva year in Old 97’s history.
From the bottom of our collective fan hearts, thanks to Rhett, Murry, Ken and Philip for the fabulous ride! May 2015 keep this magnificent train a-rolling.