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Asleep at the Wheel

The Very Best of Asleep at the Wheel – 2001 (Relentless)

Reviewed by Henry Koretzky

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CDs by Asleep at the Wheel

Asleep at the Wheel has been the standard bearer for the western swing tradition for a long time - entering its fourth decade, in fact. Of course, one of the risks of being a standard bearer is that you might just run out of standards to bear.

Led, as always, by the tall Texan transplant Ray Benson (originally from Philadelphia) AATW presents 14 tracks, mostly re-recorded versions of some of its best-known signature tunes. This is as good an opportunity as any to appreciate how effortlessly the band has always shifted from pure honky tonk country ("The Letter That Johnny Walker Read") to the uptown swing of Louis Jordan ("Choo Choo Ch-Boogie" and "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens") And they've contributed some of their own original classics as well, like Leroy Preston's rocking "My Baby Thinks She's a Train." The most natural sounding grooves are reserved for Bob Wills classics such as "Take Me Back to Tulsa."

With the addition of some newer tracks such as "Dance With Who Brung You" and "Texas Me and You," AATW shows that Benson and company are still the very best at bringing the Texas Playboys sound to the world of contemporary country music.