Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Twenty four years and still going strong. They still have all their original members! That is really a feat in itself. It is almost unheard of for a band to have all of the original members after 20 years. I can think of a couple of examples, but not too many. The amazing part is that the Old 97s are still making great music. On Graveyard Whistling, they went back to their roots a bit and rediscovered some of that early bar band magic. This album contains some raucous and noisy tracks that we were accustomed to in the days of old. I am a big fan of them kicking it old school. They got some of the old energy and Replacements style noise going on.
Although this album is definitely more produced than their early endeavors, it still has that bravado. Let’s start with Drinking Song (Track 9), which is a straight cow punk number that is fast, energetic and full of loud noisy guitars. Not much of a mystery as to what this song is about. Definitely on the left side of country, but on some serious amphetamines. The speed is 100 miles an hour in a 50 mile zone. Perfection.
They also are good at turning up the twang as they demonstrate in Bad Luck Charm (Track 2). This a pure country number done as only the Old 97s can do it. Rhett’s distinct vocals are hard to confuse. Again, this song is not terribly esoteric. It is about, you guessed it, being a bad luck charm. A schleprock, if you will. It is a very nice number and the type of song you would expect from the Old 97s. Oh, there is also some pedal steel in this tune. That gives it high marks in my book.
Another uptempo number is Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls (Track 7). I think this song is about beer goggles. Where women get prettier as one imbibes more. It is written very cleverly and makes me smile. I think this one is tongue in cheek and no one is as good at that as these boys currently. Another fine release from the Old 97s that should grace your music collection.