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Rhett Miller 

The Believer

Long known as the well-primped frontman for radio-friendly Dallas cowpunks the Old 97's, Rhett Miller has transitioned into a distinguished popsmith. On Miller's sophomore solo album, though, his subject matter hasn't matured so noticeably.

Miller delivers his relationship insights with 19-year-old earnestness; now, however, Miller features increasing arrangements from friends including producer George Drakoulias (collaborator with the Black Crowes, Tom Petty and more) and multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion (foil to Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann and others). The wit is still sharp, but the über-polished jangle and stomp loses edge placed next to some XO-era Elliott Smith to the nth power orchestration. The theatrical twang is more over-accessorizing. Believer has its charms, but at their best they are like lucky charms: familiar, reoccurring and reassuring because they are perpetual, from the Old 97's to good old 2006. Miller still seems to be searching for what mood and method best suit him, but it's believable he'll eventually find it.

Rhett Miller and the Believers perform at the Variety Playhouse on Wed., April 5, with Nicolai Dunger.

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