Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

9Jun/092

Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller releases new solo CD via Shout! Factory

Rhett Miller is a busy guy. Just looking at the promotional blitz for his brand new self-titled solo album (out today via Shout! Factory) would make you tired. But then you add in Miller's main duties as frontman for alt-country rockers The Old 97s, and you've got a good ol' fashioned recipe for exhaustion for most, but for Miller, it's just another day in the life of a busy musician doing what he loves.

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A high profile guest appearance during the season finale of the NBC comedy 30 Rock certainly did a great job setting the stage for Miller's new album (in addition to making us REALLY jealous here at ATV.) With the release of Rhett Miller, Miller is set to spend the summer on the road with his main band, touring under the banner of An Evening With The Old 97s. Miller will open each evening with a solo set showcasing material from the new record, followed by a solo set by bassist Murry Hammond, prior to the evening's main event, a headlining set from The Old 97s. That's truth in advertising right there folks, because you will indeed get "an evening with The Old 97s," and then some!

I'll have to admit that I've never been a huge Old 97s fan, but I've always had a keen interest in what Miller is up to, whether it's with the band, or solo. Perhaps my ears have been waiting for that right set of songs, and after hearing Rhett Miller (his fourth solo release overall,) I had to ask myself "Self, what took you so long?" An average friend of mine would look at the song titles on this new album and see titles like "Happy Birthday Don't Die" and automatically would assume that this album is likely already on my top 10 list for the year. And truth be told, that's probably exactly where this one will wind up.

As one that loves "love gone wrong" songs to pieces, there is plenty of that to love on this one, particularly with lyrics like the ones on "Like Love," where Miller sings about the girl that "wanted things I couldn't afford, like a house filled with laughter every night." Ouch. And Miller manages to hit the emotional core over and over throughout the album with sublime lyrics that encase songs that are musically lush with accompaniment, including some well placed assistance here and there from Jon Brion.

If you try to play "guess the Brion tracks" on this one, you'll be surprised - here, Brion is really just another member of the band contributing his talents to the good songs that Miller had already laid out on the table. Miller carries the bulk of the songwriting credits on this one with only one - "If It's Not Love" - featuring additional songwriting from Vertical Horizon lead singer Matt Scannell, and it's another lyrical winner:

Now the whole situation went to hell an hour late
are you on the side of reason
or is your heart made out of hate?

Ah kids, these are the albums that live for decades in my music collection. Nah, I'm not a hater of the female population - far from it (these days anyway) - but I do love a lyrical wordsmith like Miller that can throw down quality lyrics laced with pain and make it look so easy while they're doing it! I love the retro feeling that runs through this album - it's a vibe that puts you in a place that you can imagine walking into a bar to find Miller singing these songs, and while he'd be right at home in that setting, it would feel musically like you'd taken a step back in time to the 70's, and maybe a bit further back to the flower child moments of the 60's. But if you remember this album after you listen to it, did it really happen? I say yes.

Miller drags out the rock shoes to full effect on the previously mentioned "Happy Birthday Don't Die," thrashing his way through the song until it reaches what appears to be the conclusion at the three minute mark. Oh no, kids - we're not done. Miller and the band kick back in and jam for another minute and a half, and nail down my vote for the definitive rock jam of the album. I found myself staring at Itunes wondering if the new Cracker disc had somehow swapped its way into my CD player - Miller and the boys can throw down, that's for sure.

Seven records deep into the Old 97s catalog, what is it that leads Rhett Miller down the solo path anyway? Turns out, it's the same thing that leads many a band member outside of their normal comfort zone - "The reason I have to make solo records is because the nature of the band; when I bring ideas, they get voted down frequently," Miller says. "That's always been the case. The band is a democracy. But I have always told the guys that I want to make solo records."

"You can tell what the band doesn't like by listening to my solo records," Miller says. "Generally the consensus is that the band likes things that swing, things with a train beat that are rootsy and Texan. The things they don't get as much collectively are the songs that are poppier, as well as the stuff that's quiet and personal."

Rhett Miller was produced by producer Salim Nourallah, who also handled the same duties for the most recent Old 97s album Blame It On Gravity. Originally planned as an acoustic set, the list of contributors grew to include not only Brion, but also The Apples In Stereo drummer Jon Dufilho and guitarist Billy Harvey.

Check out a free download of "I Need To Know Where I Stand," the first single from Rhett Miller, and go catch a tour date when Miller and The Old 97s come to your city this summer. Here is a list of upcoming tour dates to help you plan your summer accordingly!

P.S. - Rhett Miller did an extensive series about the new album, and you can watch that series of interviews right here.

June 10 – Los Angeles, CA – “The Drop” at The GRAMMY Museum (Rhett Miller Solo)

June 18 - Rochester, NY - The Old 97s Party in the Park

June 19 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell’s

June 20 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell’s

June 21 – Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of Living Arts

June 23 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell’s

June 24 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell’s

June 25 - Beach, DE - Bottle & Cork

June 26 - Tarrytown, NY - Tarrytown Music Hall

June 27 - Towson, MD - Recher Theater

June 28 - Hampton Township, PA – Hartwood Acres

July 8 - Los Angeles, CA – The Music Box at the Fonda
July 9 - San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore

July 11- Snowbird, UT - Snowbird Festival

July 12 – Aspen, CO - Belly Up Tavern

July 14- Colorado Springs, CO Armstrong Hall
July 15- Telluride, CO Mountain Village
July 16 – Boulder, CO Boulder Theater

July 18 – St. Louis, MO – The Pageant

July 19 – Minneapolis, MN First Avenue

July 21 – Madison, WI Barrymore Theatre
July 22 - Grand Rapids MI Intersection
July 23 – Indianapolis, IN Vogue
July 24 – Louisville, KY Headliners
July 25 - Asheville, NC Bele Chere (free outdoor festival)
July 26 – Atlanta, GA Variety

Aug 1 – Amagansett, NY – The Stephen Talkhouse (Rhett Miller Only)