Friday, March 3, 2017

WIRTW #451 (the “Graveyard Whistling” edition)


Thank god we got these guitars.
In this devil of world.
Turn it up make a little noise. 
– Old 97’s, “Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls”

So declare the Old 97’s on one of the more raucous tracks on their latest album, Graveyard Whistling, the band’s 11th studio effort. I’ve been turning it up and making noise since its release one week ago.

This band has been putting out superb release after superb release for the past 23 years. They pioneered and helped define the alt-country genre, survived the collapse of the major record labels system, and came out the other side rocking better than ever. As lead singer Rhett Miller said in one recent interview, “I thought you were forced to stop playing rock ‘n’ roll when you turned 30, but thank God that’s not the case.” Thank God indeed.

It’s not as if the band is breaking new sonic ground here (spoiler alert … they’re not). But that’s not a bad thing. When you listen to an Old 97’s album you know what you are going to get. Rhett’s strong vocals belting out his clever lyrics, Ken’s twangy guitar that dances on the edge of the cliff without ever falling off, Murry’s frenetic bass lines and smooth backing vocals, and Philip’s controlled mix of galloping snares and shuffling beats holding it all together.

The band even went back to the past, revisiting the same Tornillo, Texas, studio where they recorded their major label debut back in 1996, their defining Too Far To Care. This time around, they used the production talents of Vance Powell, a frequent sound engineer for Jack White, who worked on both of Jack’s solo albums and all three albums of The Dead Weather. Vance’s mix adds a sonic richness to the Old 97’s familiar, frantic sound.

You also know you’ll get a bunch of songs about women and booze (see the above-quoted “Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls”, which encapsulates both), and this album does not disappoint on that front either. The standout track is a song I first heard last summer at a Rhett solo show, “Jesus Loves You“, an ode to a religious girl from a guy who isn’t quite. No matter how devout you think you are, I dare you not to laugh at lyrics like, “He’s got the power and the glory. He’s got a pretty kick-ass story. And what do I got? I got the hots for you.” Other tracks to which I find myself drawn include the album’s opener, “I Don’t Want to Die in This Town,” and closer, “Those Were the Days.”


You will be hard pressed to find a better group of guys in the music business. Rhett, Murry, Ken, and Philip have earned all of the success this album is bringing their way. Buy it, stream it, just listen to it. You won’t regret it. And please check them out when they roll through your town. As good as they sound recorded, they are to be cherished live.

Here’s what I read this week:

Discrimination

Workplace Technology

HR & Employee Relations

Wage & Hour

Labor

OSHA & Safety

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