97’s

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