Black Music Matters Festival

Old 97's

Too Far To Care – 1997 (Elektra)

Reviewed by Eric Zehnbauer

With its major label debut, the Old 97's appearto have the greatest chance of any of the so-called insurgentcountry bands to achieve widespread exposure/acceptance. From beautiful vocals to frenetic guitar work to the hard-driving,spot-on rhythm section, this is one tight package!

The 13 originals help further define the 97s' style. The 97s have always been a rockin' band, albeit one with a knowledge and appreciation of country music. As such, there are songs that should appeal heavily to country lovers, e.g. "Salome" and "W. TX. Teardrops" nd others that should easily fit into a rock radio station's format, such as "Timebomb" and "Broadway." Several things are common to all of the songs, though. Rhett Miller, the band's main songwriter and one of the two vocalists, is one of the sharpest lyricists around, writing wry, witty lyrics which give nods to musical influences and show clever wordplay. Miller and bassist Murry Hammond both are excellent singers, at their best when they're harmonizing with each other.

Just as definitive of the Old 97's style is lead guitarist Ken Bethea's outstanding guitar work. Making his instrument twang, wail, and growl, he leaves his signature on every song.

The only weak spots are the two songs reprised from earlier albums. "Big Brown Eyes" sounded better in the softer, less energetic version on "Wreck Your Life." Doing "Four Leaf Clover" (from "hitchhike to rhome") as a duet with Exene Cervenkova (formerly of the band X) detracts from the original.