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Get to Know the Old 97’s

September 26, 2014
Old 97's

Old 97’s

Old 97’s revel in their more than 20 years together as a band and show no sign of going quietly into the night.

“Most Messed Up,”  the latest and 11th studio release, opens with the rowdy, six-minute “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” to clear the air in no uncertain terms. Frontman Rhett Miller sings: “Rock and roll’s been very, very good to me/ The open road’s the only place I wanna be.”

The Texas-born alt-rockers return to Charlotte Oct. 11 for a show at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square. Click here for more info and tickets.

Old 97’s fans, such as actor Rainn Wilson, rejoiced when “Most Messed Up” dropped in April. Wilson tweeted this gem after hearing an early cut: “Listening to the Old 97’s unreleased, ‘Most Messed Up.’ It is sublime rock and roll. 20 yrs of y’all-ternative mayhem w/Rhett Miller & gang.”

Rolling Stone put the recording on its “Best 45 Albums of the Year So Far” list with this description:
“On this most Old 97’s-ish of Old 97’s LPs, the hard-partying twang-punk quartet throw a 20th-birthday bash for themselves. It’s yet another round of airtight songs celebrating life-as-sublime-train-wreck amid music that conjures the British Invasion landing in a Texas barroom.”

Old 97′s made their Elektra debut in 1997 with “Too Far to Care,” a muscular album that balanced the band’s Texas traditionalism and pop leanings. Many publications placed the band among the leaders of the alt-country movement, and Old 97′s toured extensively in support, joining the Lollapalooza tour that summer and playing alongside Whiskeytown for a series of shows sponsored by No Depression magazine.

Their memorable appearance on the “Tonight Show” put them on the mainstream radar with a tune inspired by a runaway cat.

The touring continued through 2001, and then the band went on hiatus and separated to cities to start families. Miller, a prolific songwriter, put out a solo album in 2002. And then the gang got back together in 2004. They’ve been steadily releasing new work and touring ever since. One project in 2013 was an EP of tunes they recorded with Waylon Jennings.

All of that brings us back to now and “Most Messed Up,” the revealing, 12-track meditation on 20 years in music. It’s “a rock opera, a way-off Broadway musical about a musician’s life, loves and lubrication,” says music critic Bill Flanagan. Recorded in Austin and produced by Salim Nourallah, “Most Messed Up” also features guest appearances by Tommy Stinson (The Replacements, Guns N’ Roses) and Jon Rauhouse (Neko Case) on lap-steel.

Stinson plays rhythm guitar on about half the album, “and does a lot of singing and yelling,” Miller says. “You can hear his vocals the most on ‘Intervention’ and ‘Let’s Get Drunk and Get It On,’ he’s yelling a lot on that on that one. We tracked those live with him, and there are a few others that we let him overdub some stuff on, and sprinkle his Tommy Stinson magic dust on. He’s rock ‘n’ roll royalty. He’s been a rock star since he was 12. He’s just such a sweet dude, and we’re all big Replacements fans.”

Don’t miss Old 97’s on Oct. 11 at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square. Charlotte’s own The Loudermilks will open the show. Tickets start at $20. Click here to get yours!

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