Spin (p.120) - "[S]hifting between singer/songwriter Rhett Miller's heartrending country and mojo-fueled power pop." - Grade: B+
Alternative Press (pp.142-4) - 4 out of 5 - "On DRAG IT UP - aided by unpolished production that doesn't force them to rock faster or harder than they should - all that cleverness works better than before....Beautifully haunting and well worth the wait."
CMJ (p.8) - "[G]uitarist Ken Bethea's super-reverberated riffs strut between Byrds-like warble and Uncle Tupelo-like fingerpicking with ease."
Personnel: Rhett Miller (vocals); Ken Bethea (guitar, accordion); Philip Peeples (drums, shaker, tambourine); Murry Hammond (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Chet Himes; Mark Neill.
Audio Remasterer: Jim DeMain.
Liner Note Author: Sarah Hepola.
Recording information: Dreamland Studios, Woodstock, NY (03/2004); Soil Of The South Productions, San Diego, CA (03/2004); The Troubadour, Los Angeles (03/2004).
Photographer: Johnny Buzzerio.
In a just world, the Old 97's would have at least equaled the rise to fame of kindred spirits Whiskeytown. When head 97 Rhett Miller put out his major-label solo album, it seemed like he was all set to become the next Ryan Adams, and justifiably so. However, the late-'90s buzz around Miller and his band never quite translated to stardom. DRAG IT UP finds them on an indie label, the dust of hype suitably cleared; lo and behold, the result is one of their best albums ever.
The record opens with "Won't Be Home," whose surging roots-rock and locomotive rhythm are suggestive of "Time Bomb," the closest the 97's ever came to a hit. From there things rapidly shift direction, as "Moonlight" is an achingly pretty ballad that includes a nod to the Velvet Underground lullaby "After Hours." A honky-tonk piano and poetic, world-weary lyric enliven "Borrowed Bride," with its refrain of "life comes apart at the seams," and "Smokers" suggests nothing so much as a Chris Stamey tune from an early dB's album. What comes across most strongly on DRAG IT UP is the sterling songcraft and empathetic band interplay, positing the Old 97's as the crown princes of the country-rock roost. Take that, Ryan Adams!