Reviewed by Matt Dentler, Fri., Nov. 4, 2005
Alive & Wired (New West)
Dallas' Old 97's deserve a live album. At home in both honky-tonks and punk dives, the band has spent a decade on the saddle between Hank (Williams) and Frank (Black). What's questionable is the need for a 2-CD overview that amasses 30 tracks from two summer nights at Gruene Hall. The first disc gets off to a sluggish start, relying on recent singles such as "The New Kid" and "Rollerskate Skinny." The songs bounce, though the recording quality leaves something to be desired. The second disc, however, is the treasure trove. Expertly sequenced, it features some of the band's best concert staples, such as "Big Brown Eyes" and lesser-known but vital work like "Friends Forever." One of the band's best songs ("Designs on You") fails to come together, but the rest of disc two is a winner. While the lack of onstage banter is welcome, Alive & Wired would have benefited from fewer songs and more space. Granted, an Old 97's performance has never been known for either.