Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Old 97's: The Grand Theatre Volume One [New West, 2010]
The punk-come-lately intensity of Rhett Miller's first three songs is so far from their silly old alt-country pigeonhole that when second songwriter Murry Hammond moseys to the mic to deliver the Marty-Robbins-come-even-later "You Were Born to Be in Battle" they could be a separate-and-unequal band. After that, however, Miller pipes down without giving up. He credits "Champaign, Illinois" to Bob Dylan for the excellent reason that it (thoroughly) rewrites "Desolation Row," and if Uncle Bob really wants to shake things up some night he should master the lyric, which at this point in history is more apropos than the original. Soon Hammond's "You Smoke Too Much" is fitting right in. As together as can be expected, and as Miller requests with a hint of desperation, "Please Hold On While the Train Is Moving." A-