Old 97's

Early Tracks – 2000 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Rachel Leibrock

Sounding as if they were born to brawl in bars, Dallas's Old 97's turn outrowdy alt.-country that's at once familiar and fresh. This is an eight-track disc featuring previously unreleased tracks and out-of-print B-sides.

Hearkening back to the good ol' days of 1995, "Early Tracks" showcases a band that - even as it's crying in into its Bud Longneck bottle - is comfortable in its punkabilly cowboy boots. Singer-songwriter Rhett Miller marries a '90's sense of irony with timeless good ol' boy pathos, it's evident in both in his own songwriting and his choice of covers "I'd bring some girl home and then have to pay her," sings Miller on the disc's opening track, "Ray Charles." On "W.I.F.E." a crying jag of twangy guitar underscores the band's nod to the classics - here's a song about "givin' up the debauchery" that would fit along nicely next to any Merle Haggard classic.

Old 97's pay their direct respects to Haggard on "Harold's Super Service." There's also a nod to Johnny Cash with a rendition of "Let the Train Blow the Whistle." Fans of the band who were disappointed with last year's rather tepid, all too radio-radio "Fight Songs" would do themselves a world of good by checking out this compilation that so nicely remembers Old 97's snotty cowpunk roots.