On December 13, The Old 97's will perform at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Dallas. That combination alone is enough to make for a pretty cool night. One of Dallas' most beloved bands in one of the greatest rooms our city has to offer will never be an ordinary scenario.
But this particular show will have an even more celebratory tone than most. About four weeks earlier, on November 17, Omnivore Recordings and the Old 97's will release a 20th anniversary double-disc reissue of the group's debut album, Hitchhike to Rhome. Appropriately, the concert on December will see the band play Hitchhike in its entirety, an honor that the record more than deserves. In fact, even without the prospect of the show, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this reissue. Here are five of them.
5. Ominvore Recordings is Awesome Only active since 2010, it's more than impressive to see the collection of gold that Omnivore has helped bring into the music world. Deluxe reissues of albums and live collections from seminal acts from Big Star to Buck Owens make Omnivore worth following and patronizing, regardless of the label's love for our hometown guys. Plus, Omnivore was behind the excellent 15th anniversary reissue of the 97's Too Far To Care and even the 2013 7" vinyl offering of Old 97's & Waylon Jennings, their collection of collaborations with the late country legend.
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4. Ken Bethea's Liner Notes Bethea rarely says a word from the stage when he's performing, but we here at the Observer know that the 97's lead guitar man can write. He recently reflected on long-time friendship with the Toadies and their classic album Rubberneck for us, and he once even wrote a story that appeared on the cover of the paper. As the co-producer for this special release, Bethea will provide his thoughts for all of us music nerds that never want the art of the liner note -- and the unique perspective that thoughtfully written ones lend to any release -- to go away.
3. Extra Tracks That Actually Add Something All too often, albums that are reissued in some form are lazily and deceptively slapped with the "deluxe" or "special" label, just to add a bit of marketing pizzazz to the proceedings. But with an entire disc consisting of demos of beloved tunes such as "St. Ignatius" and "Stoned," to go along with unissued tracks such as "Crying Drunk" and "Alright By Me," this collection is a tight one, with each cut being worthy of our attention. Pulled together in one place, all the rarities will help paint a fascinating picture of the band in their formative days.
2. The Old 97's Are a Seminal Act As North Texans, it's sometimes difficult to understand or fully appreciate the national impact of a band that many of us have seen play to tiny crowds in a group's infancy, or even possibly know the individual members personally. But when discussing the very real alt-country craze of the mid-to-late '90s, when some great albums were made by artists that are still quite relevant, anyone with a brain will include the 97's in that conversation, and Hitchhike specifically. When the highly publicized major label bidding war broke out over Whiskeytown, as Son Volt and Wilco shed their shared Uncle Tupelo past and the Jayhawks toured the globe with Tom Petty, the Old 97's were there,chased and lauded every step of the way. Plus, it's no small feat that there isn't any other major group from that insurgent, golden-era of alt-country that's still performing with only original members, without ever breaking up or taking any sort of true hiatus. Longevity counts, and in that regard the 97's are in a class of their own.
1. This Has Been a Great Year to Look Back and Celebrate Our Favorite Bands It's simple enough, really. Great music is always worth celebrating. in 2014, we as residents of North Texas have had many chances to raise a glass to bands we've loved for years. While the Toadies grabbed many headlines for their cross-country tour of Rubberneck's 20th birthday, Centro-matic released one of the very best albums of its 18 year existence before announcing that this year will be it's last as a unit. Pleasant Grove, a band that 10 years ago seemed to be poised to become the next major export from the area, came back for real and announced plans to release a new album. Topping it all off with a celebrations of Hitchhike only seems proper. Some may call it empty nostalgia, but on December 13, when Rhett Miller and crew tear through the songs that first introduced the world to them, it will be a killer rock show with the warmth of a happy reunion.