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Old 97's | The Grand Theatre

New West (2010)
By JEFF TAMARKIN  |  October 12, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars

1010_old97s-home

When Old 97's are on — which they are most of the time on their eighth studio album — they're very, very on. Rhett Miller's writing is the definition of neatly sculpted songcraft, with every piece firmly in place, and not a bit of fat. On "The Dance Class" ("I'm in love with whoever you are," the creeper sings to the girl he's eyeing from a window) and the title track, which comes on with the force of the Clash's "London Calling" and stays there, they recapture the spunky mojo of their earlier alt-country while cranking up the volume enough to leave no doubt that they're kings of the roadhouse now. "Champaign, Illinois" — so undeniably a rewrite of Dylan's "Desolation Row" that Miller splits authorship — is two-thirds shorter and five times faster than its source material but just as emblematic of its time; bassist Murry Hammond's "You Were Born To Be in Battle" is a classy if wordy offering that benefits from a heapin' helpin' of Duane Eddy–style twang. The couple of clunkers — "A State of Texas" merely proves that no one needs another song about Texas, and "The Magician" has lame lyrics — aren't complete throwaways, just reminders that Old 97's shouldn't be settling for less.

  Topics: CD Reviews , Bob Dylan, Rhett Miller, Rhett Miller,  More more >
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ARTICLES BY JEFF TAMARKIN
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 See all articles by: JEFF TAMARKIN



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