Live at Billy Bob's Texas

Asleep at the Wheel

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Live at Billy Bob's Texas Review

by Thom Jurek

Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel have become prolific in the 21st century. In 2003 alone the band has issued a new studio album in Remembers the Alamo, this live CD, and an accompanying DVD from a gig at Billy Bob's Texas in April 2003. In addition, Benson's solo album hit the street earlier that summer. It doesn't appear that the Wheel has lapsed in its quality control, however. This live show at Billy Bob's is scorching hot; full of tight, Western swing, R&B, blues, and honky tonk, it is one of the finer Asleep at the Wheel live outings available. As an added bonus, the Wheel performs with former pedal steel guitarist Cindy Cashdollar as a guest, along with current steel chair Jim Murphy, who also doubles on saxophone. Sonically, this disc sounds better than most folks' studio recordings. The material is a great grab bag: there are the standards "Miles and Miles of Texas," "Get Your Kicks on Route 66," "Take Me Back to Tulsa," "Boogie Back to Texas," "Don't Fence Me In," and "Cotton Eyed Joe." There's a great read of Hank Thompson's "Six Pack to Go," as well as the jump blues of "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens." But it's in the unexpected tracks, such as a moving version of Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You," the Venna Keith/Ben Peters hit "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" so closely associated with Freddy Fender (with beautiful vocals in Spanish by Haydn Vitera), and a killer version of "Amarillo by Morning" (the George Strait hit) that make this collection such a delight. Once again Asleep at the Wheel surprises and enchants, all the while bringing a slice of the great Western swing tradition to the masses.

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