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Old 97's

Too Far to Care

Omnivore Recordings

Ah, those were the days. The mid-'90s gave rise to an unlikely combination of musical styles that was called "Alt" or "insurgent" country. It was spawned by early efforts of Jason and the Nashville Scorchers, whose records such as Fervor from 1983 and the 1985 masterpiece Lost and Found showed the way to combine rock and roll passion (and volume!) with country sensibilities. Within a decade a cottage industry flourished, from the Bloodshot label in Chicago to the Seattle-based No Depression magazine, suddenly it was hip to swill PBR and listen to George Jones- in public!

The alt-country movement was as diverse as any genre out there, from the old-time sound of Freakwater to the Roger Miller-influenced Robbie Fulks, and while not all of it was good, some real classics arose out of the pack. Whiskeytown's Strangers Almanac from 1997, A.M. and Being There from Wilco, and this bunch of Dallas, Texas punk-meets-country from the Old 97's, Too Far to Care. The opening cut, "Timebomb," is the aural equivalent of those heart paddles you see in the ER, a punk-enthused ode to love -- "I've got a timebomb in my mind mom/ I got it badly for a stick-legged girl/ She's gonna kill me and/ I don't mean softly" -- that hits the ground running, and the rest of the album's 14 tracks don't let up a bit. From the heartfelt "Salome" to the weary, resigned "Streets of Where I'm From," Rhett Miller and crew sound a lot more mature than their age (early 20s) would lead you to expect.

Now this release adds another disc to the original album, entitled They Made a Monster: The Too Far to Care Demos that shows that even in rough, acoustic form, these songs have an energy and awareness that shines all these years later. Included are cuts that were left off the release from 1997, highlighted by "Holy Cross," one of the band's most compelling songs, which for some reason didn't make the cut back then. Nowadays the band has reformed for live shows, and Rhett Miller has had success as a solo performer (namely The Instigator with the lovely "Come Around"), but this is where it all started, wild-eyed and all punked up in a run-down studio near El Paso. Now, kick open a PBR and get to rockin'!

Omnivore Recordings: www.omnivorerecordings.com