"We've taken what we always done well, and just grown it some"-Murray Hammond
Hammond, bass player and vocalist for The Old 97s made the above statement regarding their newest release, Blame it On Gravity, due out tomorrow. And after hearing an advance copy of it, I'd say he's on target.
BIOG has been the non-stop choice for the Ipod over the past few days. While there are a few clunkers in the mix (something about "Ride" is irritating because it just doesn't seem to ring true and "This Beautiful Thing" sounds like a second rate country song written by a Brit Pop band), but there's also some gems and those gems are friggin stunning. Hammond's "Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue" has a haunting lonely beauty that's beyond words; "Here's to the Halcyon," a song about a shipwreck, makes you think of the Carter Family with a modern pop twist instead of some Gordon Lightfoot song that I've always been compelled to turn off.
"No Baby I" captivates with an interesting chorus of "No baby I don't wanna see you hurt/You got them tears, they fall like pearls/Blame it on gravity, blame on being a girl." Another song, "My Two Feet," the hooks, plus Rhett's vocals melting all over the place, snagged me from "go," but the chorus of "I'm going down the mountain on my two feet and I'm going slow" seems somehow out of place when paired with the rest of Rhett's lyrics (I'd heard that Rhett took the chorus from a Murray song which could explain the weirdness). But see, that's how good it is, that doesn't even matter...and I'm routinely a lyrics-first type.
The band recorded this record in Dallas, TX, where they're all originally from. When I spoke to Ken Bethea after the SXSW New West party, he'd said he felt this was their best record in 10 years, that it was really comfortable to make, and felt right. I think that comes across. BIOG is a welcome return from the lackluster Drag It Up, whose sole stand-out track “Valium Waltz” was a hold over from an earlier record, Too Far to Care.
BIOG merges the big Johnny Cash-guitar twangy feel that was so prevalent in earlier records like my all-time favorite Wreck Your Life, as well as the more straight-ahead Brit Pop twangy feel found on Satellite Rides. The 97s finally seem to realize that you can go home again, and by incorporating the person you used to be with the person you have become, the two halves can create a solid whole that endures.
1. "The Fool"
2. "Dance with Me"
Download: No Baby I (MP3)
4. "My Two Feet"
6. "She Loves the Sunset"
7. "This Beautiful Thing"
8. "I Will Remain"
9. "Early Morning"
10. "The Easy Way"
11. "Here's to the Halcyon"
12. "Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue"
13. "The One"