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Old 97’s | Love the Holidays & Rhett Miller | The Messenger

Rhett Miller & Old 97's are the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season.

Home-made gifts are always more special. And more memorable. So The Old 97’s definitely earn some brownie points for writing the bulk of the songs on their Christmas album Love the Holidays. Even better: Most of their original contributions come bearing all the twangy licks, sprightly tempos and lighthearted lyrics you anticipate from these long-serving Texas roots-rockers led by singer-guitarist Rhett Miller. Standouts include the barnburning, brass-accented two-stepper I Love the Holidays, the punky Gotta Love Being a Kid (Merry Christmas), the rockabilly boogie Rudolph Was Blue and the rail-riding Hobo Christmas Song. You want something slightly more traditional? Kick up your heels to the punchy Auld Lang Syne and the Tex-Mexified God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. That’s as close as you’ll get to old-school. But you won’t mind one bit. Of course, if you’d rather avoid the holiday fare altogether while still getting a dose of Miller, he’s only too happy to oblige with his latest solo album The Messenger. But be forewarned: While it’s more than upbeat enough musically — Miller expands beyond his country-rock roots once again with poppier melodies, instrumentation, production and songcraft reminiscent of Tom Petty and Wilco — the ultra-personal lyrics to tellingly titled songs like Total Disaster, Permanent Damage, We’re in Trouble and Broken deal with weighty topics like insecurity, depression, loneliness, death and self-harm. As if you don’t get enough of that at the holidays already. Still there’s no denying that Miller and his Old 97’s are truly the gift that keeps on giving.