Old 97’s & Waylon Jennings – Old 97’s & Waylon Jennings (EP Review)
With a pair of indie releases behind them, and their Elektra debut, Too Far to Care, just ahead, the Old 97’s caught the ear of Waylon Jennings, who talked them up in an interview. Emboldened by this notice, the group wrote to Jennings and asked if he’d like to record together, and charmed by the invitation, he invited them to Nashville. So the quartet and the legend convened to record two originals, Rhett Miller’s “The Other Shoe” and bassist Murry Hammond’s “The Iron Road.” Prodded by a band that was as much rock as country, Jennings’ voice still had the gravity to stand out against electric guitars, bass and drums. Hammond’s opener offers the sort of introspective accounting Jennings often wrote for (and of) himself, while Miller’s tale of infidelity and revenge provides the vocalist some lyrical drama. Unexplained is how the two sides ended up being shelved for seventeen years, until their Record Store Day release in 2013. Reissued on CD, the Jennings tracks are fleshed out with four previously unissued contemporaneous Old 97’s demos, cover art by Jon Langford and liner note by Miller. Two of the demos were re-recorded for later releases (“Fireflies” for Miller’s solo album, The Believer and “Visting Hours” for The Grand Theater, Vol. 2), but these early takes, including a cover of the Magnetic Fields’ “Born on a Train,” are a nice find for Old 97’s fans. The Jennings tracks are the main draw, and they’ll please both the band’s fans, and the Jennings faithful.