Old 97's Early Tracks (Bloodshot)
Reviewed by Jerry Renshaw, Fri., May 19, 2000
Early Tracks (Bloodshot)Taken from scarce or unreleased material going back as far as 1995, this Bloodshot disc explores the Old 97's roots and finds the band sounding a bit more like a country band or even a rockabilly outfit at times. The kickoff, "Ray Charles," combines Western-movie guitar with a train beat befitting the band's name, and a busy break that threatens to turn into chaos for a moment. "W.I.F.E.," on the other hand, is a country shuffle Old 97's style, wearily bemoaning the plight of a man who's married but doesn't want to be. "Por Favor" is another locomotive chugga-chugga tune about running into old St. Peter on Judgment Day, with a feel that could almost pass for the Waco Brothers at times. The closer, a cover of Johnny Cash's "Let the Train Blow the Whistle," brings the band full circle, showcasing the Rhett Miller/Murry Hammond harmonies that have become the band's trademark, along with a down-in-the-basement baritone twang-guitar solo. Those who find the 97's a little weak in the knees (ahem) should give this a spin; it finds the band in considerably more raw and aggressive form. Those who find them charming and cute should listen to it so they'll have a better idea of where they sprang from musically. It's only eight songs, but even this admitted non-97's fan had to start it over again after the last tune played.