Maybe you have to be a seventh-generation Texan to have the cojones to rewrite a Bob Dylan song, much less an iconic classic like “Desolation Row.” Rhett Miller, the leader/songwriter of Old 97’s, measures up to such a bold revision.
With last fall's release of The Grand Theatre Volume One, Old 97’s added yet another twang-fueled burst of Power Pop/Roots music to their illustrious and lengthy career.
The Dallas quartet began in 1993 as an AltCountry-styled Indie band, spent time on a major label, got dropped and then rebounded on wide-reaching independent label New West Records.
Included on Grand Theatre is the Dylan rewrite, “Champaign, Illinois,” in which Miller revs up the melody and totally changes the original’s apocalyptic lyrics.
“I sat on this song for a long time because I knew we would get in trouble trying to release it without permission, because getting that from Dylan is usually impossible,” Miller says. “He gets a hundred requests a day. But our manager, Danny Goldberg, intervened.”
Old 97's play Southgate House Wednesday with Those Darlins. Go here to read Greg Gaston's full interview.