Black Music Matters Festival

Asleep at the Wheel

New Routes – 2018 (Bismeaux)

Reviewed by Devin Adams

See it on Amazon

The heyday of Western Swing music has long since come and gone. Sure, there are those that still keep the tradition alive and well, and there are those that are working to renew trails. That is exactly what Asleep At The Wheel is doing, with "New Routes." One of the beauties of Western Swing music is its diversity. It draws from swing, country, jazz, folk and even blues styles of music. With so much variety to draw from, the enormously talented band created a beautifully rich and dynamic collection of sounds.

Katie Shore, one of five newcomers, splits vocal responsibilities with founder Ray Benson, (guitar vocals) including the jazzy opening track, "Jack I'm Mellow," before Benson's rockabilly "Pencil Full of Lead." In addition to Shore (also on fiddle) are other fresh faces including Dennis Ludiker on mandolin and fiddle, pianist Connor Forsyth, Josh Hoag on bass and Jay Reynolds on reeds to go along with drummer David Sanger and steel guitarist Eddie Rivers.

Shore and Benson continue to alternate throughout with Shore leading "Call It A Day Tonight," a ballad penned by the two, followed by Benson on "Seven Nights to Rock." Each track explores different musical roots, such as an Americana version of Guy Clark's "Dublin Blues" or the accordion driven, Italian-inspired "I Am Blue."

"Willie Got There First," a funny tribute to Willie Nelson's huge catalog of songs, ends the recording with special guests Seth and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers. The brothers quip, "I had such a great idea for a song, but Willie got there first."

Each track, whether original or reimagined stands out. The huge array of influences drawn into one collected recording makes for an enjoyable listen.