Ruthie and the Wranglers - Live at Chick Hall's Surf Club
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Live at Chick Hall's Surf Club (Lasso, 2000)

Ruthie and the Wranglers

Reviewed by Tamara Bunnell

Washington, D.C.-based Ruthie and the Wranglers present something different with on their third CD. Recorded live at a D.C.-area club, the band is on their home turf here where they have a standing gig every Wednesday night. The CD conveys the enthusiasm of their home town crowd, whose hoots and hollers can be heard in the background. Also in evidence is the band's skill; this performance is undeniably tight.Lead guitarist Phil Mathieu performs licks of uncompromising quality. In fact, the whole band is solid.

The album is divided into three parts: set one, "intermission" and set two. The live sets are split pretty evenly between the band's originals and a variety of covers, and the covers run the gamut of American roots, from rockabilly to country. Though well played, they are standards; chosen certainly for their broad appeal without much thought given to originality. The most consistent quality overall is the sheer speed at which the songs are played. Though many will love the energy of the quick pace, some listeners will find it nothing short of headache producing.

The band is at their best in the intermission segment, which includes four new studio tracks. The pace is slower and the songs more heartfelt. Band leader and singer Ruthie Logsdon's vocals lose the overdone twang of the live set and take on a richness and emotion that is effective and strong. "For Cryin' Out Loud," one of Logsdon's originals, is an exquisitely written and beautiful Lucinda Williams-style take on heartbreak. Truly a stand out, this song alone makes the CD. (Lasso, 7004 Westmoreland Ave., Takoma Park, MD 20912)

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