Jerry Wexler knows in his soul what is good. In fact, I would
venture to guess that most of Wexler's ideas are solid gold. Not only
that, but with a reputation and pedigree like Wexler's, one can choose
to work with pretty much whomever they choose. So for his latest brilliant
idea he teamed up with Asleep At The Wheel and Willie Nelson
and cut a record full of classic Western Swing tunes
Waylon Jennings once preached that Texas was the home of Willie
Nelson and that he'd be the first to tell you that Bob Wills
is still the king. Waylon was completely correct, and here, finally,
is the proof of that admission. Willie sings his heart out on this
album, taking the music of his home territory and adding his own vibrant
life to it. Ray Benson and Co. don't take time to slouch, either.
Asleep At The Wheel is most definitely still at their peak, having
been there for quite some time, playing incredibly well and imbuing
the songs with their own swagger, yet always being careful to retain
the song's own personality. For an example check out the swinging
version of Bob Wills' "Sweet Jennie Lee" that takes the
classic song, smoothes it out just a touch and then launches it into
a Willie-led hootenanny of gigantic proportions. The song has all
of the classic elements; crisp swinging drums, a jumpy bass line,
brilliant fiddle solos, and epic pedal steel accents. There are songs
that cross back over to the big band swing, easing on down the Western
side, and those tracks make this album that much better. Drop in the
occasional clarinet, as on "I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None O'
This Jellyroll", and you've got an instant smile. Another Wills'
classic, "Right Or Wrong" is wonderfully performed, with
all the panache and grace that the Texas Playboys gave the
song, but with Willie's trademark vocals in place of Tommy Duncan's.
The version of "Bring It On Down To My House" has all the
classic elements of a great swing song; it jumps, jives, and wails
all at once. The fiddle work on "Shame On You" could have
sprung directly from the strings of Bob Wills' own fiddle, it's just
that tasty, while the groovy, low-slung guitar work on "Shame"
is utterly brilliant as Benson plays and talks his way to greatness.
Take a listen to Willie And The Wheel. If you love Willie,
you'll find a lot to love. If you love Asleep At The Wheel, you'll
find even more to love. But if you really don't know what you're missing
in the Western Swing arena, then this is a great introduction. The
sound is accessible and tight, friendly and joyful. Bob Wills is still
the king, but Willie And The Wheel brings it all into the 21st
century with a keen edge that would make the king proud.
Check out more
e-mail the chief
Like this article?
it to a friend!