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Ruthie & the Wranglers Go Back to Country Music's Future
M. Moore | 02/24/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's not an easy trick to tweak country music without stooping to parody, but Washington, DC's Ruthie and the Wranglers walk that fine line--with sass and style to burn--on their second full album, "Life's Savings." This follow-up to the band's debut, "Wrangler City," is a lively melding of honky-tonk and rockabilly that showcases lead singer Ruthie Logsdon's brassy vocals and fresh-as-mountain-dew songs. Add in the top-notch muscianship of Phil Mathieu (lead guitar), Mark Noone (bass), and Joel App (percussion), coupled with Noone's studio wizardry, and you've got one of the tightest, liveliest, and catchiest "alt.country" offerings of 1998. The band members' punk roots are most evident on revved-uptempo numbers such as "A Dime at a Time," Logsdon's "If It's the Last Thing I Do," and, especially, a blistering version of Loretta Lynn's hands-off-my-man anthem, "Fist City." Moreover, "He's a Honky Tonk Man," which celebrates a transgender urban cowboy, is tongue in cheek, to say the least. But other, more traditional honky-tonkers, such as "What Mama Don't Know" and "One More Lie," wouldn't sound out of place on the latest Pam Tillis release. Logsdon's songwriting and vocal talents would be enough by themselves to recommend the Wranglers' sophomore effort, but they're not all the album has to offer. Mathieu's effervescent work on electric guitar, which brings to mind the Buckaroos' Don Rich, and Noone's efforts in the producer's chair have yielded a sparkling clean sound that rivals any Nashville chart-topper. Ultimately, arguments over how to pigeonhole Ruthie and the Wranglers are beside the point. What "Life's Savings" is about is fun. Next time the party starts to flag, slap it on--and stand back."