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Ray Benson

Beyond Time – 2003 (Audium)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Ray Benson

Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson may be trying to prove he can do near anything he wants with his first solo venture apart from his 33-year tenure with AATW. For anyone anticipating Benson's work alone to mirror his Western swing proclivity with the Wheel, be aware that he thankfully has more ambition than that. Although he doesn't stray too far from the swing roots of a Texas traditionalist, Benson dabbles in a number of related areas here, from the blues swing of "Mary Anne" and "Clearing Up to Be Cloudy (featuring guest guitarist Jimmie Vaughan on both and Delbert McClinton on the latter) to the smooth jazz of "Hands of Time" (with guest guitarist Stanley Jordan) to the pop lull of "Isn't It Strange." He does return to his familiar swing neighborhood with the jumping duet with Dolly Parton on "Leave That Cowboy Alone," but for the most part Benson takes a working holiday from the Bob Wills style he has helped to revive and redefine.

Rabid Wheel fans will love seeing Benson in this new light, while Western swing fans may be less enchanted with Benson's musical expansion.