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Old 97s refuse to change

Sinclair Cambridge, Cambridge, Mass., May 4, 2017

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Some things don't change, and in the case of Old 97s, that's quite alright.

Twenty-four years on, the alt.-country mainstays retain the same line-up with which they started - lead singer and acoustic guitarist Rhett Miller, bassist Murry Hammond, guitarist Ken Bethea and drummer Philip Peeples.

And while they were not afraid to include some of their fan favorites along the way, such as "Doreen," "Big Brown Eyes" and closing the night out with "Timebomb," but despite being 2 -decades along, Old 97skeep putting out new releases and are more than happy to dig into the new songs.

Old 97s merge country and rock sounds, for the most part, with an intermittent punky edge as well. The new songs from February's "Graveyard Whistling" stood up quite well, including the alt.-country of "I Don't Wanna Die In This Town" to the cowpunk of "Drinkin' Song." Such was the confidence of Old 97s that they played 9 of the 11 songs from the new disc.

Miller was perhaps a bit more subdued as the front man, but he did his usual demi-windmill strumming of his guitar. Hammond took lead vocals a few times with his usual reservoir of energy.

Bethea, typically in the shadows of Miller and Hammond, proved to be no slouch on this night with a plethora of sometimes steely, sometimes rocking playing that gave a lot of musical direction. Peeples provided the needed backbeat.

Old 97s are getting older, but with nights like this, that's about the only thing that has changed in yet another muscular effort.

Nicole Adkins opened with a strong set of rock with a bluesy, sometimes roots and occasional country edge. Adkins was in good vocal form with a big sounding voice. Adkins, who fronted a trio of keyboards and guitar, previewed a chunk of songs from a CD out in July.

Adkins may have gained a buzz a decade ago with her major label debut, which never quite saw her career take off. That's not due to a lack of chops. Adkins, who also joined the headliners for their "Good With God," demonstrated that in spades.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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