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

Rhett Frazier Inc: 'Escape from Dee-Troyt'

It's futurist. It's retro. And it's happening right now - new Los Angeles musical powerhouse Rhett Frazier, Inc. has emerged with their brilliant debut album Escape from Dee-Troyt. This 10 track album is sure to be a welcome end-of-the-year surprise for listeners hungry for something new: a wonderful juxtaposition of funky grooves, expert soul crooning, bold electronics and catchy tunes.

The band's instantly catchy grooves have already earned them a respectable amount of praise from those in the know. Resident DJ A-Ski of the revered nightclub Little Temple described them as "a combination of Funkadelic, Rare Earth, Flaming Ember, Frank Zappa and Al Green rolled into one along with that raw, gritty Detroit sound that would make the late, great Norman Whitfield proud." LA Examiner's Patrick Hamilton declared that Escape from Dee-Troyt "takes Stax-era guitar licks, blues attitude and 70s R&B crossover appeal and blends it into a tasty milkshake of auditory heaven," while Dusty Grooves America said the album has "a classic sound...that reminds us of some of our favorite blue-eyed funky rock from way back."

Composed of core members vocalist/songwriter Rhett Frazier and drummer/producer Donny Gruendler, the band initially formed in 2004 as an escape from their day jobs as some of music's "consummate sidemen" - Gruendler has played drums behind John Medeski, DJ Logic and Motown's backing band The Funk Brothers, while Frazier fronted soul and R & B combos, winning over crowds across the nation. Soon, however, the band blossomed into a full-time collaboration, with both men indulging influences as diverse as Steely Dan, Danger Mouse, Prince and Tom Waits. "We just wanted to make music that was cool to us," says Donny. "Yeah, something no one could touch," agrees Rhett.

The untouchable material is at once funky and playful, obviously the product of two music-lovers who can manage to be forward-looking with both their songwriting and sonics. Lead track "U Can't Stop" marries four-on-the-floor funk riffs with a modern immediacy and attack, all wrapped around Rhett's distinctive falsetto and baritone croon: "It's a fate you can't deny/The future's caught you from behind/You can't stop what's already happened." The song was inspired by Rhett's more philosophic leanings, some which could almost be applied to the group itself: "I worked out a theory that there's no such thing as past, present or future - they're all the same." Concert favorite "BeLong" shines in its recorded version too, a tongue-in-cheek paean to an erstwhile girlfriend - "Won't be long we'll belong together." The track's gritty rock feel came when producer Donny stripped away most of the backing track, declaring it "sounded too much like the Roots, not us" and re-did the music from scratch around Rhett's vocal. A similar story came with the Dr. Dre-flavored number "Nuthin'" - originally an all-electronic DJ Shadow-like track, it became a rocked-out funk number once the two masterminds put their own stamp on it. "Once we found out we could sound like our favorite records, we wondered, 'Why are we doing this?,'" says Rhett. "We already own those records." The result is a defiant song of self-sufficiency with the triumphant chorus - "Ain't nothing you can do for me/I can't do for myself."

Cocky, funky, fresh and catchy, Escape from Dee-Troyt is bound to make a splash with clubgoers and music collectors alike. Let Rhett Frazier, Inc. blur the lines between the past, the present and the future for you this year.