Old 97’s to take the stage at Roots N Blues for an evening of alternative country-rock

The band’s lyrics range from witty to heavy-hearted and their slight southern twang is captivating.


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Dallas-based alternative country-rock band the Old 97’s’ will take the stage at the Roots N Blues N BBQ festival on Sept. 29 for a set that you won’t want to miss.

The Old 97’s are made up of singer and lead songwriter Rhett Miller, guitarist Ken Bethea, bassist Murry Hammond and drummer Philip Peeples. The four have been recording and touring together since the early 1990s. Their first album on a major label, Too Far To Care, came out in 1997. In the past 20 years, they’ve released four EP’s and 11 albums, including their newest that came out this year, Graveyard Whistling.

The Old 97’s’ songs span a wide array of subjects. Their 1999 album Fight Songs has songs like “Lonely Holiday” and “Valentine” that are far more melancholy, contrasted with songs like “Murder (Or a Heart Attack),” which is about a lost cat.

Graveyard Whistling has songs that are more serious, but the band also has some more cheeky love songs. “She Hates Everybody” is one that is especially fun to listen to, with lines like “she’s a lovely girl but she’s a misanthrope” and “she hates everybody but me.” Another song in that same vein is “Jesus Loves You,” which begins and ends with the line “Jesus loves you more than I do, just because he doesn’t know you.”

The Old 97’s have an unbeatable rock feel that’s mixed with a slight twang and strong storytelling that serves as a reminder of the band’s Texas roots. Some of the songs reflect a confusion or sadness about life, like “All Who Wander” or “Four Leaf Clover,” while “Champaign, Illinois” talks about the depressing and banal lifestyle in central Illinois. They also have upbeat and fun hits like “Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On” and “19,” as well as songs about being a musician, like “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive.”

If you prefer more low-key tunes, the Old 97’s can provide those, too. “Question,” one of their most popular songs, is sweet and about engagement and “Busted Afternoon” from Fight Songs is calm and wistful.

If you stop by the Old 97’s’ set, you may get to see some of Miller’s hair flips, and you’re sure to enjoy yourself. There’s also a chance they’ll play some songs from Miller’s solo career, which he has maintained alongside the Old 97’s since 2002.

The energy of the band is infectious, with lyrics so specific and detailed that they have a feeling of intimacy while still being upbeat, charming or somber. The chemistry the Old 97’s have is so apparent when they play live and they are sure to deliver a fun — yet sometimes pensive — set at Roots N Blues N BBQ.

Edited by Brooke Collier | bcollier@themaneater.com

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