Comprised of primary songwriter Rhett Miller (vocals, guitar), Murry Hammond (bass), Ken Bethea (guitar) and Philip Peeples (drums), the members of renowned alt-country quartet Old 97s can trace their origins back to their formation in Dallas, TX back in 1993. Initially, a very popular band in Dallas’ scene, the band quickly caught the attention Bloodshot Records, who released Wreck Your Life, which later caught the attention of the folks at Elektra Records, who signed the band in the hopes that the then-Dallas-based quartet, along with bands like Uncle Tupelo, Drive-by-Truckers, Whiskeytown, The Jayhawks, Bottle Rockets and others, which were at the forefront of the alt-country sound would be the next big thing after grunge’s decline. However, unfortunately for both Elektra and the members of Old 97s, despite receiving a fair amount of critical applause, the band and its sound didn’t quite catch on commercially in the way that the label expected, and they were subsequently dropped from the label.
And although being dropped from a major label, can have a devastating impact on a band and their career, the band has managed to build a cult-favorite status and in the iTunes and blogosphere era, building up a devoted and supportive fanbase will provide you with an attainable and sustainable level of professional success. The band’s latest effort Graveyard Whistling reportedly deals with both life and mortality — but with the band’s distinctive and ironic sense of humor and heartfelt tenderness.
Graveyard Whistling’s latest single “Good with God” is a collaboration with renowned labelmate Caitlin Rose, and its a swaggering track that sonically owes a debt to Sun Records and renegade-era country and rockabilly; while thematically, the song’s narrator talks about being a wild badass, who has made a certain level of peace with his life, as he’s fucked things up and “made his bed and will lie in it,” and while he’s made peace with God, he isn’t sure if God has accepted it. So one level the song expresses the acceptance of a full and messy life, but an uncertainty of what happens once we’re no longer here.
Directed by Lee Kirk and produced by Michael Kristoff, the recently released video for “Good with God” features Jenna Fischer as an MTV-like VJ doing a prototypical 120 Minutes-styled interview; however, the band’s drummer is missing and Fred Armisen, who just happens to be at the studio is recruited to play the role of the band’s drummer. And although the show’s director tells Armisen’s character to just sit there and look like he was in the band, he can’t help himself from interrupting and eventually taking over the interview, much to everyone’s exasperation. As an interviewer myself, it’s painful and hilarious. Of course, it’s followed by a blistering studio performance of the song with Armisen actually playing drums.