When I was in middle school, my mother discovered the Old 97's. This discovery was passed on to me, and both of us have been huge fans ever since. I have an oddly distinct memory of sitting in my middle school cafeteria humming "Jagged" while I waited for the rest of my table to come off the lunch line. Mom and I have seen the Old 97's, and Rhett Miller solo, several times when they've been in New Jersey or NYC and have loved every show we went to. We still reflect fondly at the absolutely stellar show they did at Styuvesant High School in June 2006.
Recently, the Old 97's released "The Grand Theatre: Volume One". A friend of my mom's gave it to her, she brought it home, I burned it onto my laptop, and listened to it on one of my train rides up into the city for class. Since the Old 97's are so near and dear to my heart, I thought I'd cover this newest album here and hopefully spread word of them a little further out.
The Old 97's started as an Alt. Country band out of Texas and have gotten progressivly more "Rock" over the years, thus their appeal to me. The opening track, "The Grand Theatre", really reflects how much Rock has infused into them over the years. But even as soon as track 3 and 4, "The Magician", there's a bit of a throwback to the rock-infused-country energy from earlier albums, and track 4, "You Were Born To Be In Battle", and track 6, "Let The Whiskey Take The Reigns", hold a lot of their old country spirit that proves that they haven't thrown away their roots but have simply grown from them. They even pay a bit of tribute to their Texas roots with "A State of Texas".
Favorite tracks include "The Magician" and "Champaign, Illinois", which both seem to echo a bit of what I loved about earlier albums. Least favorites include "You Smoke Too Much" and "Love Is What You Are". They're both still great songs, but they'd drop to the bottom if I were to rank the tracks from favorite to least favorite.
Over all, "The Grand Theater" is a good album. Not my favorite, but still very enjoyable from start to finish. If you're already a fan, it's a great album to add to your collection, and if you haven't heard them yet it's a good place to start.