Old 97's

The Grand Theatre Volume One (New West)

Texas Platters

Old 97's

The Grand Theatre Volume One (New West)

More than 15 years in, the Old 97's haven't lost a step. Concerned about releasing a double-disc set, The Grand Theatre Volume One anticipates its spring companion Volume Two as frisky as ever, mixing a Clash clamor with a two-step beat and gently exploring relationships real and imagined. The last couple 97's discs were perhaps negatively affected by frontman and principal songwriter Rhett Miller's burgeoning solo career, but here he seems doubly inspired, and the band charges alongside, particularly Ken Bethea, whose guitar play remains snaky and evocative. Among the many high points, it's difficult to choose one, but "Champaign, Illinois," which appropriates the melody from "Desolation Row" (with Dylan's approval) and matches it to a different kind of hell, is a balls-out move that works splendidly. It all makes you wonder what they have up their sleeves for Volume Two.

***.5

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