Asleep at the Wheel

Asleep at the Wheel

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Released in 1985, Asleep at the Wheel marked the return, after a five-year absence from the recording studio, of country's best contemporary Western Swing outfit. Abetted by pal Willie Nelson, who lent the band his studio as well as a poison-pen letter to Nashville record executives (the surprisingly vulgar "Write Your Own Song"), the group cobbled together a disc that most fans agree is among their best. As usual, the band mines the standard Western Swing repertoire, coming up with expert takes on "Cotton-Eyed Joe," "Across the Alley from the Alamo," and "Deep Water" (the last featuring Junior Brown's first recorded appearance on lap steel guitar). The band also taps the John Hiatt catalog for "This Is the Way We Make a Broken Heart." Guitarist/bandleader Ray Benson shares lead vocal duties with Chris O'Connor, whose dramatic alto nicely counters Benson's amiable baritone.

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