The Wheel finds Asleep at the Wheel consistently making music full of fun, along with fine musicianship and a sense of purpose. Even though anyone can simply enjoy the great batch of tunes on this recording, a more discerning listener can see that there is a higher cause, that being the preservation of Western swing and all the genres present in that form. So whether the cuts are jazz oriented ("The Wheel"), gospel ("Somebody Stole His Body"), or honky tonk ("I Can't Handle It Now"), the band is up to the task. Particularly noteworthy are the musical compositions of rhythm guitarist Leroy Preston and leader Ray Benson's distinctively raspy vocal style. What sets this record above other bands that might want to keep the spirit of Western swing alive is a sense of integrity beneath the surface. However, that sense of purpose is never so heavy-handed that a feeling of festivity is too far away. The sax, fiddle, or accordion solos may be technically sophisticated, but try not dancing to this stuff or tapping your toes and see how far you get. In other words, Asleep at the Wheel has made a fine record that will appeal to both the average fan and serious students of the Western swing tradition.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael Ofjord