The good reviews are already rolling in! Be sure to pick up your copy of "Fast Girl" at your local record store or at Amazon.com and CDNow.com
Tears to toe-tappin': Country cranks up
SENTINEL POP MUSIC WRITER
Posted May 3, 2001, 2:00 PM EDT
* * * * * The Tractors, Fast Girl (Audium): There's nothing too complex about this fourth album from the loosely organized band of country neo-traditionalists assembled occasionally -- though not often enough -- by Oklahoma native Steve Ripley.
Yet three chords still go a long way in the right hands -- and there are lots of talented fingerprints on these 10 rollicking saloon songs. Leon Russell handles piano and Hammond B-3 organ in a band that includes bluegrass ace Sam Bush on mandolin and portions of Elvis Presley's well-regarded rhythm section (guitarist James Burton and drummer D.J. Fontana).
There are moments when Fast Girl makes you pine for the days when Merle Haggard and Buck Owens had a place on country radio. More often, though, the album is a toe-tapping reminder of the natural link between old-time country and the blues-based boogie that Sam Phillips' Sun Records would transform into rock 'n' roll in the late 1950s.
From Ripley's initial "Heeyyy, Baaaybeeee!" exclamation (a nod to the Big Bopper?), there's an informal atmosphere that results in a one-take, leave-the-tape-running feel.
The opening "Babalou" chugs along behind a solid snare-drum backbeat, a punchy horn section, Burton's dobro and well-placed background voices. The lyrics span world history from Old Testament stories to Ricky Ricardo and modern politics against a melody borrowed from "The Midnight Special."
That's not the only time that Ripley wears his influences on his sleeve. "Nine Eleven" is a credited sampling of the melody from Huey "Piano" Smith's "Rockin' Pneumonia." The title alludes to a love-related emergency call.
"Can't Go Nowhere" dips into Texas swing with an authenticity that rivals Asleep at the Wheel. It's about a hard-luck guy who can't seem to do what he once did: "You're a fast ball, baby -- Inside curve/ I'd take a swing -- I ain't got the nerve." The jaunty arrangement, which adds a dose of saxophone to the requisite pedal steel guitar, proves that Ripley and his hired guns don't have that problem.
The band slows the tempo for "Ready to Cry," a lean but gorgeously arranged ballad about being on the edge of tears. It's a terrific showcase for Ripley's deep baritone, which manages to sound rugged and vulnerable at the same time on a song that wouldn't sound out of place on an Iguanas album.
Ripley embraces his mission on "It's a Beautiful Thing," which examines the enduring power of Hank Williams and Chuck Berry against the tide of lesser competition. "There's a lot of new music," he sings. "Stop and think and you'll find. Even Hank was new music once, got to keep an open mind. I set aside my Faron Young and bought myself a Hootie. I rolled down the window of my pick-up truck and it sailed like a Frisbee."
It's worth rolling down the window for Fast Girl too -- so you can feel the wind in your hair when you turn up the volume.
Copyright © 2001, Orlando Sentinel
The release schedule of albums by the Tractors seems to be measured in glacial terms, but the results are rarely disappointing. Fast Girl finds the Tulsa-based country boogiemeisters bouncing to their own metronome, led by head Tractor and chief songwriter Steve Ripley. The act's debut on Nashville indie Audium is a sonic delight, with expert musicianship from top to bottom (including an "honorary Tractor" stint by Leon Russell). "Babalou" thumps with an Okie heartbeat, "Can't Get Nowhere" swings mightily, and "Ready to Cry" sways with dusty soul. Ripley pays homage to his roots with the back-porch anthem "Higher Ground" and a medley of " A Little Place of Our Own" and Dylan's "On the Road Again" that closes the set. Ripley remains an adventurous, risk-taking knob-twister in his own Church Studio, deftly deploying horns, piano, guitars, and backup vocals. Somehow, the Tractors manage to be loose and tight at the same time, plowing along like an old John Deere held together with spit and bailing wire.‹RW
New Single "Fast Girl" released to radio 9/28. You guys...YOU GUYS!...have been so great with the responses to my message a while ago letting you know about the release of the new album. Many, many, many of you now have the CD, and are sending me amazing comments. I think we'll have to choose some and start putting them on www.thetractors.com. If we could get music critics to write reviews of that caliber, we would really have something.
Here's what's new. The video for "Can't Get Nowhere" starts airing on CMT on their show called Jammin' Country which airs every night at 11:00 PM CST; and on GAC (Great American Country) starting tomorrow--Thursday, May 3rd--at 8:30 CST. We don't want to get the cart before the horse--meaning wait until they've played the video--but then, we need to hit CMT and GAC with praise & requests. Your response to them will determine how much they play the video. Of course, I only want you to be honest. So here's hoping you love the video as much as we do. It shows us performing the song in our studio (The Church Studio) here in Tulsa, Oklahoma--home base for The Tractors for over 10 years.
Can't Get Nowhere features legendary guitar player and recent Rock and Roll inductee, James Burton. James has played for/with a staggering list of stars in Country and Pop and Rock and Roll--from Ricky Nelson to Frank Sinatra to Merle Haggard to Elvis Presley. If you've ever seen an old "Ozzie and Harriet" TV show, that's James standing next to Ricky Nelson. If you were lucky enough to see Elvis in concert from the 70's on, or any of the many movies and TV shows from that period of time showing Elvis in concert, that's James standing next to Elvis. He's played on all of the Tractors albums, and plays on 5 tunes on the new record, Fast Girl. I consider him an official member of the band, and hope to have him on the road for some live shows later this year. Also making a cameo appearance in the video, is Zac Hanson, drummer for the band Hanson. Pretty cool! Zac is seen driving a VW Bug picking up Jim Bates (acoustic bass) and David Teegarden (drums) who are hitchhiking their way to the studio for the session. In the car with Zac is my daughter, Angelene, and Leon Russell's daughter, Tina Rose. You should also watch for a shot of my son, Elvis, operating the mixing console. The video also features forever Tractors band members Fats Kaplin on fiddle and steel guitar, and Bud Deal and Mike Panno on saxophones. Bud and Mike travel by Train (do a lot of walking) and then hitch a ride with the Caney Valley School band in their band bus. Fats is seen being driven by his wife, Kristi Rose (an amazing singer), in a 1949 Mercury. Jay Spell (Steinway piano) is picked up in a 1959 Ford Fairlane convertible by a couple of girls who just wanna have fun...and who just happen to stop and hold up a liquor store on the way to the studio. Jay, of course, is completely oblivious to this and is just happy to get to the session. Last, but certainly not least, is my old friend Jim Pulte, who sings harmony with me on this song. I've know Jim for about 30 years. He wrote a song on our first album called "The Little Man". He's a great singer and songwriter and we were lucky to get him to help us on this tune.
So Uncle Steve once again asks for your help. Please watch for the video and then send in your requests to CMT or GAC (or both)--depending on which channel you get on your TV.
Here's how you can do it (I think):
You can make requests for CMT online or call them at 1-900-288-4CMT.
You can make requests online for GAC at http://www.countrystars.com or call them at 1-888-GAC-HITS.
You're the greatest. I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm having a pretty good time.
Our best to you all,
Steve Ripley & The Tractors