14.08.2020 news

Vusi Mahlasela’s Live Album ‘Shebeen Queen’ Out Today


South Africa’s Vusi Mahlasela releases his jubilant new live album Shebeen Queen, a collection of 10 traditional folk songs from his home township of Mamelodi, today. Mahlasela, one of his country’s most revered singer-songwriters, named the record after his late grandmother Ida, who earned the nickname “Shebeen Queen” after her shebeen (speakeasy) became known for its festive impromptu musical gatherings. Mahlasela and his band shut down the street in front of Ida’s former shebeen to throw a neighborhood party and perform the songs that make up Shebeen Queen, which the New York Times has already called “pure upbeat three-chord euphoria; the rhythm guitars are having a party of their own.” Today, alongside the album’s release, Mahlasela also releases a short film that shows the concert as well as his personal memories and connections to the neighborhood.


Watch the film below and order Shebeen Queen Here


Mahlasela’s late grandmother Ida (whom he calls Magogo), raised him in the township of Mamelodi (meaning “mother of melody”), where he still lives today. Following her husband’s murder in 1961, Ida opened a shebeen (speakeasy) and began selling homebrewed beer (umqombothi) to make her living. Her space became known for its lively musical gatherings at night, where the townspeople would use buckets, tins, and plastic drums as instruments, and Ingoma’buksu -music rooted in Mbube culture, meaning “Songs of the Night” – would be celebrated with everyone singing together in full voices. Ida became known as the “Shebeen Queen.” As a boy, Mahlasela saw a man playing a guitar at one of these gatherings and was inspired to build his first guitar from fishing line and a cooking oil can.


Shebeen Queen is a celebration of the vibrant musical culture of his hometown, first encountered at Ida’s shebeen. “Ida was a strong woman and was respected by all in our community,” he says. “In 1976, when I witnessed the Soweto Uprising, my political education began and I realized how important music was. I began writing songs of justice, of freedom, of revolution, of love, of peace and of life. For these songs, I was arrested and thrown into solitary confinement. Magogo was always there for me –she fought for me, protected me and stood up for what was right. She was and still is my greatest hero. I decided I wanted to record some of these great Township songs in an effort to preserve this important music, so critical to our community and to our history. I wanted to honour this music and my grandmother by recording a live show, right here in Mamelodi at Magogo’s house.”

06.08.2020 news

New Repressings of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s ‘Nonagon Infinity’ and ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’ Just Released

Freshly colored 2020 re-pressings of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s Nonagon Infinity and Sketches of Brunswick East are shipping now from the ATO webstore before hitting US record stores on August 14th!


Purchase Tri Colored Nonagon Infinity Vinyl


Purchase Translucent Yellow with Sky Blue Splatter Sketches of Brunswick East Vinyl




Nonagon InfinityKing Gizzard’s classic 2016 album constructed as an infinite loop, is now available on red/black/yellow tri-color vinyl. Upon release Pitchfork called it their “most ballistic, berserker album to date, a merciless atomic-bomb“. This single LP comes housed in a gatefold jacket with a custom inner-sleeve and digital download card. Shipping from the shop now!


Get in the ATO Shop Now!




Sketches of Brunswick East was King Gizzard’s third album of 2017 (out of an eventual five!) and first time collaborating with Mild High Club’s Alexander Brettin.  The result is a psychedelic stew made of equal parts jazz, folk, and soul.  Sketches of Brunswick East is available on colored vinyl for the first time from the ATO shop and will hit US record stores on August 14.



Get in the ATO Shop Now!


05.08.2020 news

Cordovas Annouce New Album ‘Destiny Hotel’ + Release First Single “High Feeling”

Cordovas’ new album Destiny Hotel, out October 16th is a work of wild poetry and wide-eyed abandon, set to a glorious collision of folk and country and groove-heavy rock-and-roll. In a major creative milestone for the Tennessee-based band—vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Joe Firstman, keyboardist Sevans Henderson, guitarist/vocalist Lucca Soria and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Toby Weaver—the album harnesses the freewheeling energy of their live show more fully than ever, all while lifting their songwriting to a whole new level of sophistication. The result is a batch of songs that ruminate and rhapsodize with equal intensity, inviting endless celebration on the way to transcendence. The band will also make their national TV debut on CBS This Morning this coming Saturday, August 8th, performing songs from Destiny Hotel!


Recorded in Los Angeles, Destiny Hotel expands on the harmony-soaked roots rock of That Santa Fe Channel, their 2018 release. Before heading to L.A., Cordovas spent over three months in their second homebase of Todos Santos (an artist community in Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula), sketching dozens of songs partly sparked from their voracious reading of authors like mythologist Joseph Campbell, poet/novelist Rainer Maria Rilke, and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. And when it came time for the recording sessions—a frenetic seven-day stretch squeezed in just before stay-at-home orders took effect in response to the global pandemic—the band methodically eliminated any lyrics they deemed inconsequential.


“We wanted to strike the term ‘want’ from our music—to get rid of all the ‘Baby, baby, baby, I want this, I want that,’ and create something more useful,” says Firstman. “We needed to make sure these were songs we’d be proud to sing forever.”


But while Destiny Hotel unfolds in untold revelations on fear and ego and self-liberation, Cordovas offer up that insight without ever slipping into didacticism. In fact, much of the album radiates utter elation, each moment echoing Cordovas’ band-of-brothers kinship and extraordinary closeness: when they’re not touring the world, taking the stage at leading festivals like Stagecoach, Newport Folk and Pickathon, or hosting their own Tropic of Cancer Concert Series down in Todos Santos, Cordovas spend much of their time practicing in the barn at their communal farm home just outside Nashville. “I can’t imagine that many bands rehearse more than we do,” says Firstman, whose wife and young child also live on the farm. “We’re all here together in this wonderful space, and we’re pretty good about never taking it for granted.”



05.08.2020 news

New 15th Anniversary Repressing of My Morning Jacket’s ‘Z’ Now In ATO Shop

My Morning Jacket’s classic & groundbreaking 4th album, Z, is back on newly pressed purple vinyl to celebrate its 15th anniversary!


This double LP pressing is limited to 2,500 copies and comes housed in a beautiful gatefold jacket with artwork by Kathleen Lolley. Often hailed as their OK Computer, Z is a favorite amongst fans and critics alike, with Rolling Stone ranking it one of the 500 greatest albums of all time.


Purchase Z Here in the ATO shop!





Listen to “Wordless Chorus” from My Morning Jacket’s Z Below

29.07.2020 news

Black Pumas Announce Deluxe Edition Of Their Grammy-Nominated Debut Album + Release New Live Video For “Confines”

Black Pumas, the Austin duo of frontman/songwriter Eric Burton and producer/guitarist Adrian Quesada, will release a deluxe version of their breakout self-titled debut album on August 28 digitally and October 9 physically. The new 2-LP deluxe edition will feature new artwork and a gatefold with unpublished in-studio and live photographs, as well as a bonus 7-inch featuring three new unreleased originals; three live in-studio versions (“Colors,” “Oct 33,” “Confines”); a live version of “Know You Better” recorded at C-Boys Heart & Soul, the Austin club where the band first made a name for itself; and covers of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Death’s “Politicians in My Eyes,” Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” and Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” a cover they premiered live on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert last month.


Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition) is available for pre-order here!


Watch Black Pumas new live video for “Confines” below!


23.07.2020 news

Grammy® Award-Winning Rodrigo y Gabriela Unveil All-New Double Live Album







GRAMMY®-Award-winning guitar virtuosos Rodrigo y Gabriela have announced the upcoming release of METTAVOLUTION LIVE, an all-new double album recorded during last year’s METTAVOLUTION World Tour. The 13-track collection arrives as a 2LP, 2CD, and digital download- the LP comes in a double gatefold pressed an black vinyl.


“Hearing this recording is to be able to reconnect with our marvelous fans from our live gigs during 2019,” say Rodrigo y Gabriela, “the year we got to promote our METTAVOLUTION album all over the world. That was the very moment we felt truly complete as artists and musicians.”


METTAVOLUTION LIVE is heralded by today’s premiere of an awe-inspiring, 20-minute-plus live version of Pink Floyd’s epic “Echoes,” audaciously reimagined for two acoustic guitars and streaming now.




The release of METTAVOLUTION LIVE comes in the wake of a deeply creative period that Rod and Gab are continuing to experience in these pandemic days at home in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. One of the world’s most in-demand live acts, the duo had planned to spend this summer celebrating METTAVOLUTION and their historic GRAMMY® Award triumph with an eagerly awaited world tour. Instead, they performed an extremely popular NPR Tiny Desk (Home) performance in April, and have been releasing their daily Lumbini Sessions with inspired live versions of their favorite metal songs, film themes, jazz tunes, RyG album cuts as well as covers of Motorhead, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Dave Brubeck, Van Morrison, Lil Nas X, Radiohead and more.






2019 proved a milestone year for Rodrigo y Gabriela, highlighted by the release of their GRAMMY® Award-winning new album, METTAVOLUTION. The duo’s fifth studio LP and first album in five years and hailed by Pitchfork as “fast, heavy, and relentlessly precise,” METTAVOLUTION ultimately earned Rodrigo y Gabriela their first-ever GRAMMY® nomination and first-ever GRAMMY® win for “Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.” Rodrigo y Gabriela celebrated the album with a truly global 92-city work tour, performing METTAVOLUTION in its entirety each night alongside fan favorites and classic pieces from their beloved original canon. As now captured on METTAVOLUTION LIVE, the shows saw the virtuoso duo operating at the very peak of their powers, the perfect balance of melody and metal, fire and finesse, honed over two decades of musical collaboration.


Indeed, the new album stands out as some of the most powerful music of Rodrigo y Gabriela’s remarkable career, including spectacular live versions of METTAVOLUTION’s crunching “Terracentric” and propulsive title track. The duo’s third official live release, METTAVOLUTION LIVE is further driven by breathtaking performances of such longtime concert favorites as “Diablo Rojo,” “11:11,” and “Tamacun,” offering ample evidence of Rodrigo y Gabriela’s staging virtuosity and dedicated commitment to using music as a positive force for healing and inspiration in trying times.


# # #


Krotona Days
Witness Tree
The Soundmaker
Diablo Rojo
Gabriela Solo
Electric Soul

14.07.2020 news

Vusi Mahlasela Announces New Live Album ‘Shebeen Queen’

A Tribute to Township Music Dedicated to His Grandmother Ida: “She was and still is my greatest hero.”


Photo credit: Andre Badenhorst


Out August 14! Pre-order Shebeen Queen HERE.

Watch the Vibrant Preview Video HERE

“Vusi Mahlasela is more than just a popular musician in South Africa. His simple yet powerful storytelling has helped connect and carry a nation recovering from an apartheid past… He recognizes the power that his talent has in bringing hope to others in South Africa.” – NPR


“For more than 25 years, the legendary singer has been celebrated globally for his powerful vocals and universal messages of freedom and human kindness.” – CNN


Vusi Mahlasela, the legendary activist and singer-songwriter known as “The Voice” in his native South Africa, will release a new live album of traditional township songs, Shebeen Queen, on August 14. The “shebeen queen” of the title is Mahlasela’s late grandmother Ida (whom he calls Magogo), who raised him in the township of Mamelodi (meaning “mother of melody”), where he still lives today. Following her husband’s murder in 1961, Ida opened a shebeen (speakeasy) and began selling home-brewed beer (umqombothi) to make her living. Her space became known for its lively musical gatherings at night, where the townspeople would use buckets, tins, and plastic drums as instruments, and Ingoma’buksu – music  rooted  in  Mbube culture, meaning “Songs of the Night” – would  be  celebrated  with  everyone singing together in full voices.  Ida became known as the “Shebeen Queen.” As a boy, Mahlasela saw a man playing a guitar at one of these gatherings and was inspired to build his first guitar from fishing line and a cooking oil can.


Shebeen Queen is a celebration of the vibrant musical culture of his hometown, first encountered at Ida’s shebeen. “Ida  was  a  strong  woman  and  was  respected  by  all  in  our  community,” he says. “In  1976,  when  I  witnessed  the Soweto  Uprising,  my  political  education  began  and  I  realized  how  important music was. I began writing songs of justice, of freedom, of revolution, of love, of peace and of life. For these songs, I was arrested and thrown into solitary confinement. Magogo was always there for me –she fought for me, protected me and stood up for what was right. She was and still is my greatest hero. I decided I wanted to record some of these great Township songs in an effort to preserve this important music, so critical to our community and to our history. I wanted to honour this music and my grandmother by recording a live show, right here in Mamelodi at Magogo’s house.”

07.07.2020 news

My Morning Jacket Release New Album ‘The Waterfall II’







·  Orange & green “splash” colored LP 
·  180-gram vinyl 
·  Deluxe gatefold foil jacket 
·  Animated zoetrope labels 
·  Limited to 5,000 worldwide 
·  Includes digital download 



Back in late 2013, the members of My Morning Jacket arrived at Stinson Beach, a tiny Northern California town set right on the ocean and near the majestic Muir Woods. Massively inspired by their idyllic surroundings—and a sense of charmed isolation that frontman Jim James likened to “living on our own little moon”—the Kentucky-bred five-piece ended up creating over two dozen songs at the mountaintop studio known as Panoramic House. Though they flirted with the idea of putting out a double album, the band ultimately decided to lay aside a batch of songs and release the rest as The Waterfall: a 2015 full-length that later earned Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. After years of keeping the remaining songs stashed away, My Morning Jacket are now set to share The Waterfall II, a strangely timely continuation of a psychic and sonic journey begun long ago.


As James reveals, the decision to unearth The Waterfall II was sparked from a bit of serendipity in the early days of self-quarantine. While out on a walk, he placed his music library on shuffle and soon stumbled upon “Spinning My Wheels,” a tender rumination on the struggle for presence, its lyrics confessing to feeling “hypnotized from doing the same old thing.” Struck by the song’s enduring relevance, James revisited the other tracks reserved from the Panoramic House sessions and found that they invited a welcome moment of self-reflection—an outcome perhaps even more perfectly suited to the chaos of the current day than the circumstances of their recording.


Like its predecessor, The Waterfall II mines its mood of dreamy contemplation from certain heartbreak James had recently experienced, including the demise of a monumental relationship. Unfolding in a loosely threaded narrative of loss and recovery, the album conjures an indelible pain but never drifts into despair, gracefully conveying James’s message that “there is hope beyond the pain and loss, if you learn to flow with life like water.”


Opening on the weary reverie of “Spinning My Wheels,” The Waterfall II endlessly illuminates My Morning Jacket’s eclectic sensibilities, encompassing everything from lilting sunshine-pop to fantastically ramshackle country-rock. While the album slips into heavenly psychedelia on tracks like “Feel You” (a mesmerizing epic James developed deep in the Muir Woods), a more ominous tone permeates “Magic Bullet” and its rattled response to a then-recent school shooting. An intimate documenting of keeping an open heart in the face of devastation, The Waterfall II embodies a wistful longing on “Run It” (a song about “the desire to disappear and turn back into water,” according to James) and later gives way to overwhelming gratitude on “Welcome Home” (a portrait of “coming home from tour feeling so sad and defeated and lonely, but realizing how much love I was lucky to have in my friends and family”). And on “The First Time,” My Morning Jacket close out the album with a sweetly rambling meditation on the possibility of finding love again, channeling both ineffable sorrow and wide-eyed hope to incredibly glorious effect.


Even in its most heavy-hearted moments, The Waterfall II radiates an undeniable sense of wonder, a testament to the wild-mindedness that’s long imbued the music of My Morning Jacket. With their unabashed curiosity infinitely stirred by their time at Stinson Beach, the band hopes that the album might lead others to look beyond what’s human-made in the search for solace and renewal. “As so many of us feel out of tune and long for the world to be a better place, we have to look to nature and the animals and learn from them: learn to love, accept, move on, and respect each other,” says James. “We gotta work for it and change our ways before it’s too late, and get in harmony with love and equality for all of humanity and for nature too.”


26.06.2020 news

Thad Cockrell’s Debut Album ‘If In Case You Feel The Same’ Out Today

Thad Cockrell’s debut If In Case You Feel The Same is out today, and the album has already won a wide swath of critical praise, a quickly growing amount of radio airplay and success at streaming platforms. Produced mainly by Tony Berg (an industry veteran who’s worked with everyone from Phoebe Bridgers to the Replacements), and mixed and engineered by Shawn Everett (Vampire Weekend, Beck, The War on Drugs), the album features an all-star backing band appearing on various songs throughout – Brittany Howard (backing vocals on “Higher”), Blake Mills (guitar), Chris Dave (drums), Matt Chamberlain (drums), Ethan Gruska (piano, synths), Ian Fitchuk (multiple instruments). If In Case You Feel the Same pushes beyond the understated country of Cockrell’s earliest work to illuminate his more idiosyncratic impulses. Throughout If In Case You Feel The Same, Cockrell reveals his rare ability to create songs that instantly hit on a visceral level, yet subtly invite intense contemplation.



Listen to “Higher” (featuring Brittany Howard) below



The New York Times recently praised album standout “Higher,” which features backing vocals from Howard, saying “Thad Cockrell sings in a quivering tenor about sorrow and heartbreak, but Brittany Howard swoops in to rescue him, harmonizing a vow that grows ever more persuasive: ‘I’m gonna lift you higher when I’m feeling low.'” Rolling Stone says Thad “gets into cosmic gospel mode on ‘Higher,’ enlisting the Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard to help him strain toward the sky. Nestled between lush, arresting bits of psychedelia, Cockrell’s urgent tenor makes a promise: ‘I’m gonna lift you higher, when I’m feeling low.'”


Cockrell has co-written with a notable list of artists that include Joy Williams (on her GRAMMY-nominated 2019 album Front Porch), Joseph, Devon Gilfillian and Mathew Caws of Nada Surf, and there’s a palpable sense of communion that infuses all of If In Case You Feel The Same, including Cockrell’s collaborations with Howard. An ardent fan of the Alabama Shakes frontwoman, Cockrell first linked up with Howard thanks to a wholly unexpected introduction from his dear friend, singer/songwriter Becca Mancari.


“I never wanted Becca to feel like a pass-through, so I put it out into the universe that if I was meant to meet Britt, it would just happen someday,” says Cockrell. One very late night while hanging out with Howard, Mancari shared some recordings of Cockrell’s songs, which then prompted Howard to hijack Mancari’s phone and send Cockrell a text professing her love for his music. “Twenty minutes later they’re walking into my house, and I’m making mezcal margaritas and playing Britt songs from the new album,” says Cockrell. “At some point she said me, ‘I never like anything, but I love all of this.’” Soon enough, Howard had sent Cockrell’s demos to ATO Records, thus paving the way for his signing to the label.


23.06.2020 news

Old 97’S Return With New Album ‘Twelfth’ Out August 21 + New Music Video

Photo credit: Alysse Gafkjen


“Terse, wry, and supremely catchy roots-rock.” – THE ATLANTIC


“A well-loved pioneering force in the alt-country movement… [they’ve] still got the same raucous, sweaty energy that’s made [them] so beloved all this time.” – NPR


“Blistered, blasted, and brilliant.” – NEW YORKER


Pre-order Old 97’s Twelfth HERE


Old 97’s, the iconic alt-country outfit fronted by Rhett Miller, is returning with their twelfth album, the aptly titled Twelfth, to be released on August 21. Twenty-seven years in, Old 97’s still features its original lineup – Miller, guitarist Ken Bethea, bassist Murry Hammond, and drummer Philip Peeples – and Twelfth is a testament to the band’s staying power. The album’s cover image of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach is both an homage to Miller’s childhood hero and a recognition that, in making their livings as musicians, the 97’s themselves have achieved their lifelong dreams.


In an interview with Rolling Stone, Miller talks about how his five-year sobriety influenced the new album, saying, “Going back in, I thought, ‘What if I don’t bring anything to the table? What if I’m like Samson and the whiskey was my long hair and I cut it off and can’t write songs anymore?’… But [Twelfth] was the first record where, top to bottom, I felt I was back in the driver’s seat, found my voice, and came out the other side. It feels good.”


The band shares Twelfth’s first single “Turn Off The TV” today alongside a video directed by Liam Lynch that features Puddles the Clown as well as footage of the band throughout their career.


Watch the Video for First Single “Turn Off The TV” Below


Watch Lyric Video for “Dropouts” Below





“Somehow what we’ve got never breaks down,” Rhett Miller sings on Old 97’s exhilarating new album, Twelfth. At first, the line comes off as a boast, as a declaration of invincibility from a band that’s managed to survive three decades of rock and roll debauchery, but as the phrase repeats over and over again, it slowly transforms into something more incredulous, something more vulnerable, something deeply human.


“We experienced some close calls over the last few years,” says Miller, “and I think that led us to this dawning realization of the fragility of it all. At the same time, it also led us to this increased gratitude for the music and the brotherhood we’ve been so lucky to share. I think all of that combined to make recording this album one of the most intensely joyful experiences we’ve ever had as a band.”


That joy is utterly palpable on Twelfth. Loose and raw, the record is an ecstatic celebration of survival, a resounding ode to endurance and resilience from a veteran group that refuses to rest on their considerable laurels. Working out of Sputnik Sound in Nashville, Miller and his longtime bandmates—bassist Murry Hammond, guitarist Ken Bethea, and drummer Philip Peeples—teamed up once again with GRAMMY-winning producer Vance Powell (Chris Stapleton, Jack White), and while the resulting album boasts all the hallmarks of a classic Old 97’s record (sex and booze, laughter and tears, poetry and blasphemy), it also showcases a newfound perspective in its writing and craftsmanship, a maturity and appreciation that can only come with age and experience. Perhaps the band is growing up; maybe they’re just getting started. Either way, Old 97’s have never been happier to be alive.


“You have to take pride in the unlikeliness of it all,” says Miller. “It’s mind boggling to think that we’ve been able to last this long, that we’ve been able to support ourselves and our families on our own terms for almost thirty years. Twelve is a lot of records.”


Formed in Dallas, Texas, Old 97’s first emerged in the early ’90s with an adrenaline pumping blend of rock and roll swagger, punk snarl, and old-school twang that quickly brought them into the national spotlight. Conventional wisdom places the band at the forefront of a musical movement that would come to be known as “alternative country,” but, as the New York Times so succinctly put it, their sound always “leaned more toward the Clash than the Carter Family.” Fueled by breakneck tempos, distorted guitars, and wry storytelling, the foursome built a reputation for high-energy albums and even higher energy shows, earning themselves performances everywhere fromConan and Letterman to Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza alongside countless rave reviews. NPR lauded the group as a “pioneering force,” while Rolling Stonehailed their music’s “whiskey-wrecked nihilism and slow-burn heartbreak,” and The New Yorker praised their songwriting as “blistered, blasted, and brilliant.” On top of his prodigious output with Old 97’s, Miller simultaneously established himself as a prolific solo artist, as well, releasing eight studio albums under his own name that garnered similarly wide-ranging acclaim and landed in a slew of prominent film and television soundtracks. A gifted writer beyond his music, Miller also contributed essays and short stories to The Atlantic, Salon, McSweeney’s, and Sports Illustrated among others, and in 2019, he released his debut book, a collection of poetry for children, via Little, Brown and Company.


While part of Old 97’s charm has always been the air of playful invulnerability they exude onstage every night, reality began catching up with the band in 2017. The night before a television appearance in support of the group’s most recent album, Graveyard Whistling, Peeples collapsed in a hotel parking lot, falling backwards and cracking his skull on a concrete abutment. He spent weeks in the ICU and was forced to miss the first leg of tour. Bethea, meanwhile, began to notice a loss of feeling in the fingers of his right hand. As his condition continued to deteriorate on the road, the numbness spread to his leg, and he was eventually forced to undergo spinal surgery in order to regain full motor control. Miller, for his part, found himself at more of an existential crossroads, questioning attitudes and behaviors he’d long taken for granted. Yes, he was a rock and roll star (whatever that means nowadays), but he was also a father and a husband, and he decided it was long since time to get sober.


“Back when we were in our 20’s, we put ourselves through these terrible trials because we thought we could survive anything,” says Miller. “But over the last few years, it started becoming clear that we’re human.”


Rather than slow things down, the band decided to embrace their mortality as all the more reason to seize the day. Life is short—a lesson that was hammered home on the group’s first day of recording in Nashville, when a series of deadly tornadoes ripped through town—and Twelfth is the sound of Old 97’s recommitting themselves to making the most of every moment they’ve got left. Addictive opener “The Dropouts” sets the stage, taking stock of the band’s journey from its very first days, when they cut their teeth playing the bars of Deep Ellum in exchange for pitchers of beer and pizza. Like much of the record to come, it’s a nostalgic look back on simpler times, but it smartly avoids looking at the past through rose-colored glasses, instead recognizing that change is neither inherently good nor bad, only inevitable.


“There’s a line about sleeping on hardwood floors in that song,” says Miller, “and that’s what we did in the early days. But that image of hardwood floors keeps coming back and building on itself in different songs throughout the album, and over time it begins to mean different things as we grow up and start families and own homes.”


Miller has a knack for capturing those sorts of little details that tell a larger story, for crafting richly cinematic scenes that transform seemingly mundane moments into metaphors for life itself. The driving lead single “Turn Off The TV,” for instance, spins a free cable hookup into a celebration of the visceral pleasures of living in the present, while the larger-than-life “Diamonds On Neptune” turns an astronomical phenomenon into a meditation on what really matters, and the waltzing “Belmont Hotel” finds emotional symbolism in the restoration of a Dallas landmark.


“‘Belmont Hotel’ is a microcosm of the album, and of our band,” says Miller. “When we first started out, the Belmont was in absolute ruins, and we even did a photoshoot in the empty parking lot. Now, though, it’s more beautiful than it was in its glory days, and that got me thinking about the way we approach our relationships. Whether it’s a friendship or a marriage or a band, it’s inevitable that you’re going to go through ups and downs, but if you’re willing to put in the work and stick out the hard times, you can wind up with something that’s better than it ever was before.”


While Miller collaborated with writers like Butch Walker and Nicole Atkins onGraveyard Whistling, he penned everything on Twelfth himself (outside of the Spaghetti Western-esque “Happy Hour” and hypnotic album closer “Why Don’t We Ever Say We’re Sorry,” which were both written and sung by Hammond). It’s a return to form he credits in part to his increasing comfort with sobriety, a comfort that finds him effortlessly running the gamut from playful romance (the dreamy “I Like You Better”) and brash bravado (the blistering “Confessional Boxing”) to supernatural fantasy (the Kinks-ian “This House Got Ghosts”) and old-school twang (the rollicking “Bottle Rocket Baby”). It’s perhaps the jaunty “Absence (What We’ve Got)” that captures this particular moment in Old 97’s history best, though, as Miller marvels at the way things change while staying the same. “The wine turns into whiskey / And the whiskey turns to tears / It’s been this way for years,” he sings, later summing the whole magic act up with a deceptively simple confession: “This is what I do.”


Old 97’s may be human, but somehow what they’ve got never breaks down.

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