Now The WaPo chimes in too:
Bands are often torn asunder by members who have different ideas of what the group should sound like. So far, the Old 97’s have escaped that fate, choosing instead to give equal time to guitarist and singer Rhett Miller’s gritty rock tastes and poppier instincts and bassist and singer Murry Hammond’s more countrified leanings.
At a sold-out 9:30 club Friday night, the appealingly scruffy Dallas band played a lengthy and fervent set that neatly combined the two styles into a satisfyingly organic, and at times mess-of-fun, whole. It was after midnight when the band came onstage and just before 2 a.m. when it left for the last time. In between, it sated the desire of rowdy fans that have had to wait a couple of years since the band last toured. (Miller, who recorded a solo album in 2002, has toured more recently.)
Opening with the aching “St. Ignatius,” Miller gave voice to despair, singing, “Someday when we’re older, deep in loneliness / Things we said today won’t matter, no one could care less.” That bit of darkness gave way to brasher tunes such as “Rollerskate Skinny” and such rave-ups as “King of All the World,” “Singular” and the caterwauling, punky-tonk “Doreen.” And in one of those “Aw, ain’t that nice” moments, he dedicated “Question” — a sweet song about getting engaged — to Brian and Heather, a presumably newly betrothed couple in the crowd. Hammond took lead vocals on alt-country fare including “W. TX Teardrops,” “Crash on the Barrelhead” and the exquisitely sad and lovely “Valentine.”
Despite their clearly different tastes, Miller and Hammond seem to be complements of each other. Along with drummer Philip Peeples and guitarist Ken Bethea, they produce a sturdy, impressive sound all their own. Soon the band will head to the studio to record a new album — its first since 2001’s “Satellite Rides” — and its strong songwriting along with a willingness to experiment and accommodate a variety of directions and interests almost ensures a favorable result. — Joe Heim