Inquiring Minds

The Old 97's Rhett Miller: "Then the Stage Gets a Lot Bigger"

Music Feature: Streets of Where I'm From

This is an exciting time to be an Old 97's fan. Out of nowhere, almost, the Dallas quartet is now one of the longest-tenured and most successful Texas bands of its generation. All four original members are intact, they never "took a break," and they've never really made a bad record from 1994 debut Hitchhike to Rhome through last year's The Grand Theatre Vol. 2.

How did that happen? It's not that hard to figure out. From the very beginning, they covered great songs like Bill Monroe's "My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darlin'" and Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried." They always seemed like regular guys -- not too geeky, but not headed on the first bus to rehab either. Few front men of that era could make female fans swoon like Rhett Miller did, but the 97's rocked hard enough that plenty of men jumped on the bandwagon too.

They hit on a relatively unique sound pretty early on, a supercharged combination of jangly R.E.M.-style alt-rock and the frenetic cowpunk of '80s groups like X and Rank & File. But as dutiful fans of classic country music, principal songwriters Miller and Murry Hammond mastered the art of storytelling, and they told some great ones -- "W-I-F-E," "Doreen," "Dressing Room Walls," "Big Brown Eyes."

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray