Lisa Johnson
The band Old 97's has recently released its seventh album.

Old 97's bassist Murry Hammond loves Utah. In fact, he visits quite often, and his brother, Terry, is a medical doctor living in Pleasant Grove.

"It's a beautiful place," said Murry Hammond during a phone call from his home in Pasadena, Calif. "He's got the mountains and a dairy farm next door. It's like the place we grew up."

Hammond and the Old 97's are gearing up for a tour that will stop in Salt Lake City next week. The band — Hammond, vocalist/guitarist Rhett Miller, guitarist Ken Bethea and drummer Philip Peeples — has recently released its seventh album, "Blame It on Gravity."

"We haven't changed the way we record our albums since the beginning," Hammond said. "We have a common goal. And we know how to compromise our views, no matter how strong, to reach that goal."

Old 97's has created a niche for itself since the band formed in 1993. While the label "alt-country" has been thrown around for years, Hammond said people can call the band whatever they want.

"Our sound is not clear enough to fit in any category," he said. "Some of our songs are clearly country. Some are clearly rock. Some fall in between, and some are neither nor.

"We're basically a roots-music band. And we have influences in '60s and

'50s music. While people, such as music-business types, do have difficulties trying to pin our sound down, we sit back and let it happen."

Hammond said he knows he can't complain because the band is making a decent living playing music.

"We all were able to quit our day J-O-B-S in 1996," he said. "That was something that we all decided would be our goal at the time. And now, here were are some 15 years after we first formed. We're still the same four guys. And we just do what we do naturally, play music."

When the Old 97's get ready to record albums, band members try to find producers who know the band.

"When we went in to record 'Blame It on Gravity,' we worked with our friend Salim Nourallah. Rhett and I have know Salim since the mid-1990s, and Ken and Philip have known him since the '80s.

"We also recorded the album in Dallas, Texas, where all of us lived and grew up. So, we knew that the recording sessions would be a great, comfortable experience.

"But while Salim knew our band and knew all or our music, he also knew he could push us in different ways," Hammond said. "He is an experimental producer and helped us expand our sound."

Although the Old 97's are happy to be touring the United States, there are other places they'd like to play.

"We did Europe once, and we want to go back again," Hammond said. "We would especially like to play in London. And, believe it or not, we haven't played Canada. We would love to go there as well.

"So, those are next on our checklist."

If you go . . .

What: Old 97's, Hayes Carll

Where: The Paladium, 415 W. 600 North

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

How much: $16

Phone: 467-8499, 800-888-8499


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