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Old 97's

Graveyard Whistle – 2017 (ATO)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Old 97's

Old 97s' "Graveyard Whistling" is a slight return to form after 2014's "Most Messed Up," which was heavy on profanity, but far too light on charming country songs. "Graveyard Whistling" is a little more innocent and a lot more fun than its predecessor.

"Bad Luck Charm," for instance, finds lead vocalist Rhett Miller playing a familiar role - that of lovable loser. "I'm just another black cat crossing your street," Miller warns, in true Miller fashion. He's "The Cooler" (William H. Macy's memorable role in that casino movie of the same name) of love. God also plays a part in the lyrics to this full-length, lending a hand personally as Brandi Carlisle (in the challenging role of The Almighty) speaks to Miller in "Good With God." "Jesus Loves You" finds Miller challenging Jesus for the affections of a girl.

Strong drink, one of the devil's favorite tools, also finds its way into this 11-song collection. "Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls" races along nicely, like a Celtic-ly Pogues-ish drinking song. "Drinkin' Song" rocks even harder, as it exchanges Irish acoustics for a punk rock electric guitar roar.

Miller returns to the bad profile persona of "Bad Luck Charm" by admitting, "It turns out I'm a troubled guy" during "Turns Out I'm Trouble." Yet, the more Miller puts himself down, the more we love him. Perhaps it's his honesty that makes us believe he's merely exaggerating his faults. Nobody this sweet could ever be bad luck, let alone trouble, right? He may not have a chance in heaven or hell when competing against Jesus, but there's always a place in a girl's heart for lovable losers like Miller.