Song of the Day: Old 97's - Good with God

Song of the Day
05/25/2017
Gabe Pollak
photo by Alan Lawrence

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Good with God,” by Old 97's, from their 2017 release, Graveyard Whistling, out now on ATO Records.

Old 97's - Good with God (MP3)People love to write songs to God, but what about songs from God's point of view? Leave it to Old 97's to take on this songwriting challenge; They've never been a band afraid to push the boundaries, establishing themselves as pioneers of the alt-country movement in the 1990s by locating the tuneful cross-section between country craftsmanship, power pop melody, and punk concision. "Good with God," a tongue-in-cheek take on outlaw country played at blazing speed, only moves the band further into that territory.

In the first verse, frontman Rhett Miller takes the voice of a ne'er-do-well:  "I got my sins, in fact I got a lot." You can't tell if he's bragging or lamenting, but either way it's fine. "I'm good with god," he declares confidently. As the already fiery guitar line heats up though, Miller leaves room for at least a little bit of doubt: "I wonder how she feels me." Enter God, or Brandi Carlile singing as God at least. "You should be scared / I'm not so nice," she begins, like a cowgirl stepping up to a shootout that she knows she'll win. "I made you up and I’ll break you down," she sings, emboldened by vocal effects which make her sound far away, fitting since she's singing from the perspective of the Big [Woman] in the Sky.

After yet another, more frenetic guitar break, when Miller gets chance to speak again, he's no longer boasting about his mistakes, but begging for mercy: "Oh hell no / Say it ain't so / Is it too late to save my soul?" This time, his testimony is cut short, nearly half the length of his first verse, making listeners wonder how much time this guy has left. For all of the songs' fear and danger, "Good with God," is just as fun and nearly as fast as the best of the band's discography, only a few bpm's shy of "Timebomb," from the classic Too Far to Care. The melody is easy to hum and hard to forget, while the beat rattles along like like the freight train rhythm of the Tennessee Three run off the rails.

We can't speak for the singer's soul, but the song sure sounds good.

Old 97's start a Southeastern run in June and then, to our good fortune, trek out to Challis, ID, for the Braun Brothers Reunion Festival. But you don't need to drive to Idaho to enjoy the band's live performance. Simply click below to check out Old 97's visit to the KEXP Gathering Space in March.

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