Notice anything different? If not yet, you will soon, like tonight hopefully. It’s a great new site tweak from Jeff Neely and Larry Lane, creators of the best Hit By A Train design ever, the Satellite Rides version from 2001, this time featuring concert photography from the amazing Alex Myers. I think you’ll agree that the site is much more fresh and readable, to say nothing of the fact that each time you visit, you’ll see a great new shot of the Old 97’s in action, including a couple of excellent snaps of the nearly-impossible to capture Philip Peeples.

Now this won’t be the only new feature at, as the band looks to be prepping a much-expanded web presence in the not-too-distant future, so stay tuned for that.

And that’s small beans compared to the big news: Starting this past Monday, October 8, the Old 97’s are finally back in the studio, baby, laying down tracks for their first album of all-new material since 2004’s Drag It Up! More details soon as we see if we can’t wheedle some updates out of the guys themselves as they roll along, though here’s a sneak peak on the process in a recent interview with Rhett Miller.

You lucky Gothamites might might have had the chance to catch the band late last month, in what was called a great outdoor set, as part of the new, 7 World Trade Center concert series. Rhett, who lived just two blocks from the WTC on 9/11, returned with Ken, Philip, and Murry to lower Manhattan, and in this YouTube clip, the Old 97’s exorcise the demons within earshot of Ground Zero, in a blistering take of “Doreen.”

In other news, the Old 97’s will be heading up a fantastic bill at Dallas’ Granada Theater on Saturday, October 20. It’s a Carter Albrecht Memorial show, and besides the 97’s, features The Drams, Salim Nourallah, Junky Southern, The Slack, Slider Pines, and of course, Carter’s band, Sorta. (BTW, over on Rhett’s MySpace page, he’s got available a great version of “Ain’t That Strange” featuring Carter on guitar, available not only for listening, but for downloading too.)

Then on Saturday, November 17, Rhett returns to the Granada, for a solo show benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Now that’s two great nights of music for two outstanding causes.

Next up: Public servants and Old 97’s, and why many of the former love the latter. First up is this squib on a youngish candidate for the US Congress from Madison, WI, who’s favorite band is… well, you know.

Better still is this blog from one Michael Tomberlin, erstwhile reporter for The Birmingham News, and long-time, self-confessed fan of the Old 97’s, who several months back shed his civvies and the safety of home, for the uniform of a major in the Army National Guard and a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Since arriving he’s kept up his on-line journal, with great descriptions of life on the ground in his sector, and some great photographs too. Scroll down to his October 5 entry. I just hope that spreading hope and good-will to the Afghan people doesn’t include translating a certain loud song for one young Afghan boy. Because really, what would he make of “Timebomb”?

Maybe we can’t all run for Congress or (re)join the Army, but you can do a public service. Why not take a second to click over to They’re doing a poll of listeners all-time “essential artists”, as well as most taking you vote for the “most overrated.” You can vote here.

OK, there’ll be more soon, including some great new photos from Jeff Uleau. Yeah, I know, I’ve been promising those for two months, but wanted to wait for the redesign before adding them to the site. I also need to tweak some site and comments templates before heading out to fly again. Anyhow, check back soon!