Alive & Wired

Old 97’s. New West.

Alt-country bands tend to be stuffy purists with too much respect for their sources. Often lumped in that category, Old 97?s provide a raucous antidote: On this crackling, two-disc live set, which puts their fine studio albums to shame, the Texas quartet sputters and rumbles like a garage band with a hillbilly streak, equally attached to Merle Haggard and the Clash. Disheveled front man Rhett Miller plays the charming, eager troublemaker to perfection, his soulful voice ranging from a cocky rasp to a self-pitying sob as he spins tragicomic tales of alcoholic calamity and ill-considered romance. ?Will you sober up and let me down?? he wonders at one point, while in a more hopeful moment he admits, ?I?d be lying if I said I didn?t have designs on you.? It?s a testimony to his charisma that you wish him well anyway.

  • Jon Young is a contributing writer for Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here.

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