Album Review: Old 97’s, The Grand Theatre Vol. 2
The Old 97’s, the alternative country band hailing from Dallas, Texas have released The Grand Theater, Volume 2. They are perceived by the music world as innovators and pioneers of the alternative country genre that gained popularity in the mid to late ’90s, along with artists such as [lastfm]Uncle Tupelo[/lastfm] and [lastfm]The Jayhawks[/lastfm]. Originally intended to be a double-album, The Grand Theatre was ultimately split into two halves: 2010’s Vol. 1 and its equally tuneful sequel, Vol. 2.
The Old 97’s have spent years combining the dusty twang of Texas country with the melodic jangle of British pop, but both Grand Theatre albums bring that sound into sharper focus, presenting a band that wears its middle-age with style.
[pullquote quote="Vol. 2 shows the full breadth of the group's sound, from the ballads to the rockers to the various gems in between."]On Vol. 2, Rhett Miller serenades would-be lovers (“I’m a Trainwreck”), apologizes to their shocked mothers (“Brown Haired Daughter”), and offers up a number of sharply worded character studies (“The Actor,” “Ivy”), crooning the lyrics one minute and stumbling his way through boozy cowpunk verses the next.
“The Actor” is a quick-paced rock ‘n roll narration of the alcoholic titular character over wobbly guitar shredding. Another highlight is “White Port”, a highly memorable and catchy sea ditty worthy of any pirate crew, with a bit of yodeling added for good effect. “Manhattan (I’m Done)” is a bittersweet send-off to the Big Apple with singer Rhett Miller left “thinking how it could have been”. Bassist Murry Hammond takes over vocal duties on the nostalgic “How Lovely It All Was”, which also features some “lovely” backing vocals. “You Call It Rain” closes off the album on a high note with rollicking guitar licks and memorable solos courtesy of lead guitarist Ken Bethea. Any fans of classic 97s work or alternative country aficionados will surely find something to love with the Dallas band’s latest.
The Old 97’s are still a Texas band and Vol. 2 shows the full breadth of the group’s sound, from the ballads to the rockers to the various gems in between.
1 Brown Haired Daughter
2 I’m a Trainwreck
5 No Simple Machine
6 White Port
8 Manhattan (I’m Done)
10 Bright Spark (See What I Mean)
11 Visiting Hours
12 How Lovely All It Was
13 You Call It Rain