New gems from the Old 97’s
The latest from veteran Dallas alt.country rockers Old 97’s is an album I thought would never be made. Following 2004’s subdued Drag It Up, lead singer Rhett Miller focused extensively on his solo career, and I figured that the 97’s had finally derailed. Not so fast, buckaroo. Miller, wit firmly intact, contributes 11 of his smartass, lovelorn pop nuggets on this record, and bass player Murry Hammond piles on with a letter-perfect Buddy Holly tribute. The songwriting, as always, is top notch. But the band’s secret weapon has always been Ken Bethea’s Telecaster. He’s back in a big way, playing all the right notes and stomping all over them—moving from Pete Townshend power chords (“The Fool”) to Dick Dale surf workouts (“Dance With Me”) to Keith Richards swagger (“The Easy Way”). He nails it every time. Blame It On Gravity is a welcome return to form.