On the song “Total Disaster” from Rhett Miller’s latest release, The Messenger, Miller sings: “The truth is, I’m a total disaster.”
Catchy tune, but I’m not buyin’ it, Rhett.
Then again, I never really have. Fronting the first-wave Texan alt-country band Old 97’s, Miller’s more like an underwear model taking a movie role as a farmhand — all five-day beard and perfectly shaggy hair — than he is an actual outlaw.
Miller’s boyish tenor, however, is shiny classic-car chrome. And his guitar playing can be impressive, with some Chet Atkins-style electric guitar picking at times and now and then some real hack and slash on the album’s rockiest moments — moments that recall Old 97’s at their most locked-and-loaded on tunes like “Timebomb.”
It’s just that, lyrically, Miller tries to tell us again and again what a bad boy he is. “I’m broken, I’m stitched up, I’m scarred,” he sings on “Broken.” And on “Close Most of the Time,” he sings: “I had a run from 17 to 25 that was pretty good.” But most of Messenger, like a lot of Old 97’s, could be translated to the pop of a ’50s-era teen idol, innocent to the core, a nice-guy Ryan Adams. ν
Don’t miss this opportunity to get up close and personal with Rhett Miller when he plays a solo early show at 5:30 pm Saturday, May 25, at Sam Bond’s Garage; $20, all-ages. Then stick around for the gothic Delta blues of The Strangled Darlings and Bow Thayer at 9:30 pm, $6, 21-plus.