If Old 97's was supposed to be the post-Tupelo band to take alt-country into the mainstream, the Dallas act fell a little short. Even with the presence of handsome frontman Rhett Miller — and its a knack for mixing upbeat twang-rock with power-pop smarts — the quartet seems to have reached a comfortable and respectable plateau. But world domination was never the goal; solid, dependable songwriting took precedence over pop stardom. And at this point, there's no reason to futz with the formula — Miller's cool-eyed vocals and hairpin lyrics mesh so well with Ken Bethea's inventive guitar playing and bassist Murry Hammond's supportive harmonies. It's hard to imagine a world without the Old 97's — luckily, we don't have to.