This 18-track retrospective from Old 97’s is stacked beginning to end with gems from Rhett Miller and company that deserved to be heard by more people. The first four tracks come from the band’s lone full-length on Bloodshot and its debut, “Hitchhike to Rhome” on Big Iron Records. As Robert Christgau declares in his insightful liner notes, the rest come from the Old 97’s “miraculous” five-year stay at Elektra Records.
The band has been mostly ignored by commercial radio, with the band’s toe-dipping tendencies in the oceans of country, pop and rock the likely culprit. But couldabeens from the cowpunk call-to-arms of “Timebomb” to the charming “Valentine,” with bassist Murry Hammond singing lead, abound.
Rarities include a very cool version of “El Paso” from the King of the Hill soundtrack and the Bloodshot single “Cryin’ Drunk,” which was also part of the “Early Tracks” compilation. “Nineteen” and “Barrier Reef” are presented as live tracks from the limited edition bonus disc that accompanied “Satellite Rides.” The songs, from a 1999 performance at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, Cal., are revved up and fun, but perhaps an even earlier show also could have been included to lure hardcore fans. Of course, there are songs missing that could have been here - “W-I-F-E,” “Streets of Where I’m From,” “Indefinitely,” etc. – but all in all, a very well done introduction/refresher.