Ruthie & The Wranglers – Beltway-looped and boot-cut
If you’re like me, you’ve got a few pairs of Wrangler jeans somewhere in the bottom of your lowest dresser drawer that rarely see the light of day because they’re just a little too tight to be socially acceptable, or even conducive to good breathing. Well, Ruthie & The Wranglers are, like their namesake, a tight fit for all things country in music, whether you’re a fan of raucous rockabilly beats, film-noir ’50s balladeers, or sassy, brassy traditional Opry-style country. According to Ruthie Logsdon, the band’s lead singer, “We don’t really think about what style of music we’re doing; whether it is country or not, it just comes out that way.”
This Capital City combo’s politics are confined to the legislation of the heart on their debut CD, Wrangler City (Lasso Records). From bassist Mark Noone’s swell opening composition, “Hot Potato”, through the transparent subtleties of “Gone But Not Forgotten” and the kiss-mah-grits anthem, “I Wanna Be Your Auctioneer” (wherein the narrator debates her not-so-true love’s monetary worth), to the alternately cool and hot covers of “Town Without Pity” and “Paper Roses”, Ruthie & The Wranglers two-step through the tulips of love won and lost. People are noticing, too: Guitar great Bill Kirchen contributed his talents to a few cuts on Wrangler City, and the disc has been getting more than a few spins around the country, enough to appear on the Gavin Americana chart.
Although they’ve been featured on segments of “Prime Time Country” on TNN, and on a radio broadcast of “The Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree”, the Wranglers still don’t feel they’re quite ready for the Nashville crowd, or vice versa. “We’re not what Nashville’s looking for right now,” admits Mark Noone. “When we play there, the crowds are mostly other musicians, not record label people.” Noone knows all about the ups and downs of the business from his 10-plus years with the D.C. band Slickee Boys. He sees a thread between that ’80s rock band and his current outfit, however slim. “We don’t want to be seen as retro, necessarily,” Noone claims, ” But there’s definitely a lot of that DIY attitude here, too.”
Attitude is the key with the Wranglers. Live, they kick their proverbial spurs into the songs, revving up original favorites such as “Rockabilly Song #10” (also available as a vinyl 7-inch single) and pushing tired covers like a fan-requested “Sweet Dreams” into the land of screaming guitar solos and honky-tonk diva-dom. Logsdon is an obvious admirer of Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn and other women who really mattered to country music decades ago; she wisely skips much of the more modern influences, arriving at a place country music hasn’t been in a long time.