CD Review of Blame It on Gravity by Old 97’s
Recommended if you like
Uncle Tupelo, Steve Earle,
Drive-By Truckers
Label
New West Records
Old 97’s:
Blame It on Gravity

Reviewed by Red Rocker

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I
t’s been four years since Old 97’s circled the wagons and made a new album. Not including a greatest hits package, a double live album, and an exceptional Rhett Miller solo outing, 2004’s Drag It Up was the last time the Dallas quartet even occupied a common musical space. While rumors of a split persisted, Miller always maintained a niche for the band, even as his solo work was creating more than its share of buzz. The 97’s remained a part of pop culture, despite their time away, when pal Vince Vaughn featured them in his 2006 comedy “The Break-Up.”

Now with amps up and the self-described “satisfying crunch” of their early material, the 97’s lay a sledge hammer to the rumor mill with the energetic and well-balanced Blame It on Gravity. Bristling with Ken Bethea’s ragged guitar, nuggets like “Ride” and “The Fool” employ the band’s tried-and-true formula with all the urgency of the first time. “This is more than I can tolerate, the kinda pain you got to medicate, I can’t remember why I couldn’t wait to get so close to you,” Miller serenades on the happy-go-lucky “I Will Remain” – one of a handful of mellow tracks that could have fit just as easily on his next solo record. Hard-charging punk rock entries like “Early Morning” and “The One,” however, are what set the 97’s apart from any solo endeavor. The customary two-songs-per-album turned in by bassist Murry Hammond (“This Beautiful Thing” and “Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue”) are equally interesting -- something Keith Richards could only dream of! 

Now more than ever, Old 97’s are melting rock, punk, pop, and vintage country styles together as effortlessly as anyone since the godfathers of this genre, Uncle Tupelo. They’ve now churned out seven studio albums in 15 years since leaving the Dallas club scene in the rearview. “We went into (producer) Salim’s (Nourallah) studio hell-bent on making something great,” says Miller. “It’s like we had something to prove.” In short, this is as focused and vibrant as the 97’s have sounded in years – maybe ever. It was definitely an album worth waiting for, and if Miller or anyone else needs time away to tinker with side projects, it would be wise to allow for such independence. Miller has suggested that “Blame It on Gravity is a celebration of the brotherhood that is our band.” It appears that brotherly bond has never been stronger.

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