Twenty year old Alt. Country still sounds fresh and exciting.
HITCHHIKE TO RHOME opens with some delightful Chet Atkins influenced guitar picking before Murry Hammond starts singing; pronouncing the title Saint Ignay-sheus; which appeals to my love of Malapropisms and the song itself is a doozy; and I can’t imagine how exciting it must have been hearing it for the first ever time in 1994.
Another 15 songs follow; with the Old 97’s taking Country music as we knew it and turning it on its head then kicking its ass. If My Heart Was a Car sounds like a Waylon 45 played at 78 and when you listen closely to the lyrics it’s a hilariously brilliant Country song; yet Dancing With Tears in my Eyes is a pretty straight heartbreaker; but not like what we were hearing on the radio at the time; and it’s a similar story with Tupelo County Jail; which harks back to the Byrd’s interpretation of Country music. Where else were you going to hear steel guitars and melodies in the mid to late 90’s? Certainly not Nashville.
I imagine that when the majority of first time listeners heard Mama Tried they would have had no idea who the writer was; but the astute would have research Jennings W and discovered a barrel load of songs in a similar vein; such is the power of young bands covering old stagers.
Obviously not everything works; it is a debut album after all and at 16 songs long; there are still a helluva lot more hits than misses.
The second album in the package offers a mix of rare and unreleased tracks from these recording sessions, including all four tracks from the band’s debut Cassette (remember those; kids???) and a couple of songs like Victoria and Alright By Me bare repeated listening; but as is usually the case this disc will probably be left to gather dust and be referred to as an artifact for hardcore fans only.
Finally getting to hear Hitchhike to Rhome has been an absolute joy and helped pass several hours driving on motorways. If only I’d seen them play live.