I’d like to say that if you’re a fan of The Old ‘97s, you’ll be a fan of frontman Rhett Miller’s latest solo record, but I’m not sure that’s the case.
Miller has managed to prove that as a solo artist, he has his own voice. He’s not just a cast off from his band. Miller’s solo album is not as adventurous as Old ‘97s, who tend to favor rough Americana and a Texas sound, but that just means the songs are tighter. If his band work is rock but almost country, then his solo work is pop but almost country.
Although it’s eponymous, this is actually Miller’s fourth solo album. There’s shades of Marshall Crenshaw, Elvis Costello and The Byrds. The music is, with a few exceptions, upbeat and bouncy—complimented by Miller’s crystal clear vocals. The lyrics are consistent love songs, nothing too profound, but even among the commonplace there are some moments of true inspiration and wit . . . “Happy Birthday Don’t Die” could be a Ryan Adams tune, and the punch-line chorus of “Another Girlfriend” is pretty damn funny. I won’t give it away here. “Refusing Temptation” is a sentimental number that also stands out. At just 40 minutes, the album rarely misses a step. It’s sweet, suitable, and harmless, but that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s nice just to be able to put on a record and enjoy it.