A collection of out-of-print seven-inch singles and previously unreleased tracks, Early Tracks exhibits the Old 97s' uncanny ability to play witty, memorable, country-rock that chugs along at a freight train's pace. Despite the fact that this EP has been pieced together from spare parts, the material is surprisingly strong. With its unrelenting twang and Rhett Miller's nimble wordplay, "Ray Charles" would have fit perfectly into place on Wreck Your Life, while "Cryin' Drunk," a swaggering track that is stylistically similar to "Just Like California," would find Too Far to Care to be a better fit. Bassist Murry Hammond makes strong contributions, handling lead vocals on "Sound of Running," "Harold's Super Service," and a cover of Johnny Cash's "Let the Train Blow the Whistle." Also present are the dynamic "Por Favor," a swaying, breezy version of "W.I.F.E.," and the devilish "Eyes For You." Early Tracks is sure to please fans pleading for a return to the days before the pop sheen of Fight Songs, as well as those who just can't get enough of this truly arresting and irresistible quartet.
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AllMusic Review by Michael Frey