On their 2010 album, The Grand Theatre Vol. 1, the Old 97’s per- formed new material live at a Dallas theater, then took the songs that went over best and recorded them in an Austin studio. Consisting of songs left over from Vol. 1, this second installment places Rhett Miller’s articulate, off-the-cuff songs right between the composure of the control room and the looseness of the barroom. Miller savors lines like “He said, ‘Can I buy a drink?’/What he meant was, ‘Can I buy you?’ “ over his bandmates’ proudly ordinary punky-tonk. But Miller is no roots reactionary: “Manhattan (I’m Done)” is the rare country dig at New York where it actually sounds like the singer gave the big city a fighting chance.
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