Old 97’s: Ragged Glory

The four members of Old 97’s have been playing together for eighteen years without a line-up change. In that time, they’ve somehow gotten better at balancing the strains of heartfelt country, DIY punk and straight-up pop that wrestle for dominance in all their tunes, without losing any (well, much) of the ragged power that first made them so appealing.

So it’s kind of funny to hear them tell us their secret to staying together so long is compromise. Especially when they’ve recently released their second album in less than a year, recorded, like its predecessor, live in the studio in just a week or two, with minimal overdubs.

"Brown Haired Daughter" Old '97s

Or maybe that makes perfect sense: these guys clearly know what they’re doing by now. How else could they convince you that the drunks who populate most of their songs are pitiful losers, while still giving those drunks such perfect lines with which to express their regret? Old 97’s lyrics are clever in the best sense of the word, crammed with narrative detail and wordplay (in main songwriter Rhett Miller’s world, bottom lines get snorted, dancers try to sway you, and there’s no benefit to doubt) that pulls you deeper into the drama rather than distracting you from it.

Grab the free track, “Brown Haired Daughter,” if you want to be convinced, and watch our interview with the band to learn more about the line between art and artifice in their music -- they may all be married with children, but Rhett’s got a good story about how he got that white gold tooth. -- Tim Quirk

"Brown Haired Daughter" Old 97's


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