Old 97s play their best album, 1997’s “Too Far to Care,” at the 9:30 Club tonight. Miller is second from the left.
Formed in Dallas in 1993, the alt-country act Old 97s combines the heart-tugging wordplay of Townes van Zandt with the attack of The Clash. After a couple of indie releases in the mid-90s, the group were the beneficiaries of a bidding war, signing with Elektra Records. Their major-label debut, 1997’s Too Far to Care, remains their best and best-loved album. Despite retaining a substantial following — their show at the 9:30 Club tonight is sold out — the group never reached the level of stardom their big label demanded. Since 2004, they’ve been recording for the New West label.
Their current tour supports a 15th anniversary reissue of Too Far to Care, which they’re playing in its entirety in sequence, along with a selection of other songs. I spoke with singer-songwriter Rhett Miller (whose career as a solo artist runs parallel to that of his band) by phone about the quest for perfect setlist, the excesses of major label recording contracts and the perils of singing songs you wrote at 25 when you’re 42.
This interview appears today on the Washington City Paper’s Arts Desk. Continue reading
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Tagged 9:30 Club, David Bowie, Exene Cervenka, interviews, Linda Ronstadt, music, Neil Young, Old 97s, Rhett Miller, The Pixies, The Wedding Present, Washington City Paper, X
The big, sad news out of Camp X last week — the great Los Angeles punkabilly band X, that is —was that singer Exene Cervenka, 53, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. But there was neither sign nor mention of infirmity at the quartet’s typically rocket-powered gig at the 9:30 club Friday night, and not a lot of other chithat besides. The seminal foursome played just as they always have, and as every punk band should: Like they’ve got someplace else to be, five minutes ago.
Photo by Derek von Essen / courtesy Yep Roc Records
The great Los Angeles punkabilly quartet known as X had already made their best albums by 1985, when three-fourths of its lineup joined guitarist Dave Alvin to form the country and western offshoot The Knitters. That band took 20 years to brew a follow-up, but X/Knitters co-frontman John Doe’s sand-polished voice instantly proved to be such a natural and expressive delivery system for old-timey C&W that you knew (or at least hoped) he’d eventually get around to cutting a record like “Country Club”— his month-old set of (primarily) Bakersfield-centric “countrypolitan” classics, recorded with Toronto-based roots eclecticians The Sadies.
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Tagged country, countrypolitan, IOTA, John Doe, Post Rock, The Knitters, The Sadies, X