The Old 97s return to Boulder Friday, March 9, at Tulagi, with a new album, Satellite Rides (Elektra), that itself represents a return of sorts. The band has always skirted the line between the rough-hewn alternative country of 1997's Too Far to Care and the melodic pop that marked 1999's equally splendid Fight Songs. But the band is tough to pin down. Rhett Miller's crooning hooks never quite permitted the alt-country tag to take hold. And when their last album hewed even further in the direction of irresistible melodies, you got the sense that the Old 97s' country-rock roots might be behind them. But Satellite Rides changes all that. With Too Far producer Wally Gagel back in the fold, their roots are back, too, though not at the expense of the band's melodic polish. Instead, the new album appropriates the best of both tendencies and uses them to maximum effect. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better example than the album's infectious first single, "King of All the World." Of course, when the Old 97s take the stage on Friday, they're sure to offer up many more.