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POP MUSIC REVIEW : The Tractors' Organic Seeds Take Root

March 15, 1995|RICHARD CROMELIN

When people say that the Tractors are Arista Records' version of MCA's Mavericks, they're talking more about the vibes than the sounds. Both bands embrace an eclectic array of influences and value the roots of rock and country, and both have the feel of a real, organic band , as opposed to the processed pep squads that have dominated country group-dom.

They're as close to alternative as mainstream country will allow, and the fact they've both made a commercial mark is country's most heartening recent development.

At the House of Blues on Monday, the Oklahoma band showed the same split personality that marks "The Tractors," its million-plus-selling debut album. Overcoming the annoyance of the club's unadvertised concert TV show videotaping, the quintet--driven by former Eric Clapton drummer Jamie Oldaker--laid out Texas swing and honky-tonk grooves with casual authority.

While much of its sales punch might be attributed to spillover from the boot-scootin' country-dance set, the band's real strength is in some less-flashy but deeper-cutting material.

In rueful, underdog anthems such as "The Little Man" and "Badly Bent," the band delivers workingman's blues with the true spirit and hard-core sound of a Merle Haggard, and in "Blue Collar Rock" they have a powerful, Springsteen-toned lament about struggle and dreams denied.

Throughout the hour-plus show, there was nothing forced or strained, and a richness of American music elements was subtly and naturally deployed through songs with humor and bite.

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