Asleep at the Wheel

Texas Gold

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Not long after its first album, Asleep at the Wheel relocated to Austin, TX, whose freewheeling, wide-ranging music scene fit the band's sensibility perfectly. One record for Epic followed before they signed with Capitol, releasing Texas Gold in 1975 and setting their career into high gear in the process. Texas Gold wound up in the country Top Ten, sending "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read" there as well, and its success was the result of both good timing and a better band. In 1975, Texas music started to seep into the mainstream, thanks to Willie Nelson's ascendency to superstardom, thereby opening doors for bands that trafficked in Western swing and neo-traditionalist country, like Asleep at the Wheel. Still, they never would have gotten anywhere if they didn't have the goods to back it up, and this proves that their interaction had become more natural and organic, sounding closer to their idols than they did on their debut. That's not to say that they were entirely traditionalist, because the members of Asleep at the Wheel also had traces of their peers in their sound. Certainly, the Commander Cody influence is still felt -- tamed down from the debut, but still apparent in the humor and freewheeling attitude -- but there are also echoes of Doug Sahm and Willie Nelson in these laid-back groups. If Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys remain the towering influence here -- "Fat Boy Rag" and "Trouble in Mind" are both covered -- Asleep manages to capture more of their spirit than before, particularly because the group's disparate influences are synthesized, not trotted through one at a time. On top of that, the song selection is first-rate, turning Texas Gold into the best record Asleep at the Wheel had made to date. Arguably, it's the best, most consistent album they ever did.

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