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The Tractors

Farmers in a Changing World – 1998 (Arista)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by The Tractors

The sophomore album is usually a disappointment, especially after a successful debut. The Tractors would seem to be primed for that fate, with Grammy nominations, Academy of Country Music nods, and Video of the Year from CMA, and a couple million in sales of their 1994 debut, not to mention their snazzy Christmas album the following year. The Tractors never heard of the sophomore slump, as their boogie woogie country swing, honed to a razor sharp edge on their self-titled introduction, and continued on their holiday trifle, is intact and amped up on their first album of new non-specialty material in four years.

Steve Ripley's growling lead vocals are a country blend of Mark Knopfler and Steve Forbert, while the band shuffles and choogles like John Fogerty's twangier swamp odes. Guest stars abound, with the incomparable Bonnie Raitt on ripping slide guitar on "Linda Lou" and "Poor Boy Shuffle," the legendary Leon Russell pounding the ivories on "Foot Stomp Stompin'" and Elvis Presley's band (Scotty Moore on guitar, D.J. Fontana on drums, James Burton on guitar) shining on "The Elvis Thing."

The Tractors are country by the skin of their teeth and some well-played pedal steel, and this could find fans across genres (blues, country, swampy funk, pop, and rock). Long may they work the field.