Photo by Jason Garner
A few years ago, the Old 97’s were Most Messed Up, hitting their tenth album and their second decade like a runaway train. The record sounded like both a mid-life crisis and a reaffirmation of the band’s strengths: making sweaty, twangy rock that’s more than a little messed up.
Album number eleven, Graveyard Whistling, downshifts a bit but keeps the barbed-wire edges intact. The 97’s made their name on their full-throttle live shows, and Graveyard hits the gas immediately with “I Don’t Wanna Die In This Town.” Much like his idol David Bowie, singer and guitarist Rhett Miller has a way of performing for both the kids up front and the older ones sipping a beer in the back row. “I Don’t Wanna Die” is a country-punk plea that could’ve slotted in nicely on the 97’s scruffy 1994 debut. Twenty-three years later, the band still plays with abandon, but they’re also keeping an anxious eye on the clock.
“I Don’t Wanna Die In This Town” appears on Graveyard Whistling, out now via ATO. The Old 97’s play the Old Settler’s Music Festival on Saturday, April 22.
–Art Levy // host, Sunday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., producer, My KUTX