hammond

Old 97's at the Boulder Theater

Old 97’s make their triumphant return on October 12th with The Grand Theater Volume One, their eighth studio album, from New West Records.  The band, who Rolling Stone says have “evolved…into master-class rock & roll songwriters,” recorder over two dozen brand new songs during the studio sessions and will be releasing a second volume in 2011.  The 12 song album was once again produced by Salim Nourallah (the band’s previous release, Blame It On Gravity) and engineered by Jim Vollentine (Spoon).  Legendary for their blistering live performances, the Old 97’s spent a week of pre-production recording the new songs completely live at the nearly 100-year old (and reportedly haunted) Dallas venue Sons of Hermann Hall.  The band set up on stage like they normally do during concerts, so it was instantly conducive to whether or not certain new songs would translate well in a live atmosphere.  After deciding what new songs make made the cut for proper recording, the band moved the production to Treefort Studios in Austin, TX.  Basic tracks for these studio sessions were recorded mostly live, resulting in an album that is as vibrant, immediate and sweat drenched as their praised live show.  Frontman Rhett Miller stated, “The Old 97’s have hit a great stride, found our second wind.  I feel like we found the secret to capturing the live energy people rave about after they see us play.”

The Grand Theatre Volume One was predominantly written during Rhett Miller’s 2009 solo tour abroad.  The lyrics are filled with character studies while the sound – expertly rounded out by band members Murry Hammond, Ken Bethea and Philip Peeples – is Garage-Rock=meets-60’s-British Invasion without abandoning the classic 97’s sound.  Rhett Miller offered, “The Grand Theatre centers around a suite of songs I wrote during a month-long tour of England, Ireland and Scandanavia.  Opening for the great Steve Earle meant watching a master Texas songwriter at work and I soaked up these strange surroundings and turned them into songs.  I was writing at a furious cli in the midst of the most intense kinds of planes, trains and automobiles.  I can see an epistolary strain running through the songs.  All my years of Anglophillia make these fell like a collection of love letters, or a collection of letters home.  I wrote the title track in the dressing room of Leeds’ Grand Theatre.”

The album’s first single, “Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)” is an exuberant rocker.  “Like a lot of songs on The Grand Theatre, “Every Night…” is more complicated than it first appears.  The speaker has some issues.  What can I say?  The Old 97’s have been making anger and depression sound fun since 1993” said Miller. “Champaign, Illinois” re-imagines Bob Dylan’s classic Highway 61 Revisited track, “Desolation Row” with brand new lyrics by Rhett Miller.  Miller said, “The one song on the record that dates further back is ‘Champaign, Illinois.’  A few years ago, during a long, late-night drive through Southern Illinois, I kept myself awake by rewriting the lyrics to ‘Desolation Row.’  I played it around live a little, but never recorded it for fear of repercussions from Dylan’s legal team.  When the 97’s were putting this record together, we kept bringing “Champaign” up with a sort of bittersweet longing, sad that we would never be able to use it.  Finally, it occurred to me, “Why not?”  Through a series of phone calls, Dylan’s manager approached the legend with a live recording of the tune from the old Café Largo in Hollywood.  I couldn’t believe it when word came back through the channels that Dylan liked the tune but wanted to read they lyrics.  I never typed faster.  Apparently, Dylan liked it enough that, not only did he approve the release, but he wanted to split the publishing 50/50 with the band.  A co-write with Bob Dylan, even in absentia, is an enormous honor.  What a cool dude.”

An Old 97’s record would not be complete without songs from bassist Murry Hammond.  He has two strong contributions on The Grand Theatre Volume One, “You Smoke Too Much” and “You Were Born To Be In A Battle.”  Like Miller’s songs, Hammond has a highly literate style yet harkens back to an older school of writing, which creates a balance on the record.  Speaking of the record, Hammond stated “I’m a big 60s garage punk fan, and my favorite moments on this record have a thick vibe in that direction…while I’m proud of my stab at 60s Johnny Cash in ‘Born To Be In a Battle.’ I’m just as thrilled as the way the bass generally bubbles all over the place and the background and harmony vocals swim in the old plate reverb.  It gives me that same smile I get listening to my heroes the Zombies, Chocolate Watchband, Syd Barrett, etc.  I’m proud of how the band can be garage and raw but very Technicolor at the same time.  This is one of my top favorite records of ours.”

Old 97’s

Boulder Theater

Thursday, January 27th

Doors:  8:00 pm

Show Time:  9:00 pm

All Ages

Old 97's Murry Hammond's first solo album due August 18

Murry Hammond- for the Grateful Web

On August 18, 2008, Old 97's bass player and co-frontman Murry Hammond will celebrate the national release of his first full-length album outside of the Old 97's.

For two months prior to this street date, the album – I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm On My Way – was made available exclusively at Old 97's shows and through special mail-order. Hammond wished to capitalize on fan anticipation of the album's release in order to raise funds for the non-profit organization Project Mercy. Project Mercy builds basic housing in the poorest sections around Tijuana, Mexico (similar in mission to Habitat for Humanity) using volunteer labor provided by area churches. A group of men and women from Hammond's home church in Burbank, Calif. (where he performs roots gospel music weekly when he's not traveling) have adopted the organization as a primary mission. Hammond was in a unique position to raise funds quickly, and in time to fund fall building before the 2008 winter sets in. The strategy has already paid off, for as of July 1st generous fans purchased enough CDs to pay for one house.  The album will always be made available at Old 97's shows, with 100% going to charitable groups such as Project Mercy.

Hammond has played many memorable solo shows over the years, but it was certain events in his life, including the death of both parents, leaving Texas to start a family in California, and a renewed spiritual sense, that inspired him to record I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm On My Way. Hammond has been given the credit — and to some, the blame — for the persistent roots influence found in the 97's songwriting and sound, and that sound is found here in its distilled form. "Both in my own contributions and in co-writing with Rhett [Miller], I've always tended to push the chug of train songs, the soul of old-time songs and spirituals, the high-lonesome wail of mountain music, and the pure tuneful fun of singing cowboy music."  Hammond's contributions have been some of the group's most engaging, including the lament "Valentine" and "Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue," and with Miller he co-wrote some of the group's best-known songs, among them "Timebomb," "Indefinitely" and "The New Kid."

Hammond completed I Don't Know Where I'm Going but I'm on My Way over the course of 2007 in San Diego, California with producer Mark Neill, with whom Hammond worked on the Old 97's 2004 release Drag It Up. The album uses all acoustic instruments (six- and twelve-string guitars, a harmonium pump-organ), cowboy poetry-style spoken word and instrumentals, and lots of "period" reverb to paint a psychological journey through a world of spiritual trouble and triumph, restlessness, hope, loss, longing, regret, and wonder. Train songs and spirituals abound as Hammond displays his love of all things Carter Family, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, but with the twist of incorporating the moody approach of ambient artists such as Brian Eno. Like that of his heroes, the music has a minimalist heart, at once serene and severe.

Inspired by the grass-roots ethic of early punk record labels such as Dischord and Touch & Go, Hammond decided to operate DIY. He funded all facets of the CD from recording to manufacturing, and he distributes by dealing directly with independent music stores and mail-order houses. Although he also sells on Amazon.com, Hammond wants you to know, "I fill all my own orders personally. It gives me a chance to occasionally write something thoughtful or joke-y on the mailing box."

Hammond is also excited to have contributed a new track, "Bound for Canaan," to a compilation of Sacred Harp music (also known as "shaped note singing") that was produced by the filmmakers of Awake My Soul, a documentary film about the 200-year history of Sacred Harp worship singing in the U.S. The film was shown in 2007 and 2008 on 120 PBS stations, and was released this year on DVD.  The compilation also features Innocence Mission, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, Jim Lauderdale, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Woven Hand (ex-16 Horsepower), among others. The Awake My Soul audio CD is due later this year. More information on Awake My Soul film and audio CD can be found here.

For the rest of 2008 Hammond will be performing solo dates between Old 97's touring, and has also begun work on a follow-up project with producer Mark Neill.