Ray Benson

Beyond Time

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Most people know Ray Benson as the deep, rich voice of Western swing revivalists Asleep at the Wheel. After more than three decades behind that wheel, Benson finally decided to step out with an album of his own songs. While a couple of the tunes (the roadhouse blues stomp "Mary Anne," the Bob Wills-indebted "Leave that Cowboy Alone") wouldn't sound out of place on an Asleep at the Wheel album, the bulk of the songs run quite a bit further afield. It's hard to imagine Benson's band tackling the Don Williams-like 1970s-sounding country/pop of "Annabelle," the big-band ballad "Sorry," or the (non-Western) swing-inflected, jazzy "Let's Get Lost" (not the Chet Baker tune of the same name). It's also hard to imagine someone without as much experience, confidence, and just plain talent as Benson pulling off such a varied and resolutely non-commercial record as this in the lowest-common-denominator world of 21st-century American popular music.

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