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Some forty-two years ago Epic released a rare and, hugely innovative double album. One that featured famed 1940s and beyond western swing combo, Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys, the other LP was by Asleep At The Wheel. The latter was signed to Epic, and had not long been promoting a brand of western swing and it was exciting possibilities. 

Western swing is a collaboration of jazz, big band swing and country music (dance music), and with its loose presentation the kind of music where a bunch of players are able to express themselves fully. Without stepping on the other guy or gal’s toes. Such is the case on both records (released on one CD). While charismatic band leader Wills and his boys; Leon McAuliffe, vocalist Tommy Duncan, Al Sticklin, Vaughan and co’s the ten songs were pulled from various recordings. As for  the 11 songs from Ray Benson’s Asleep At The Wheel it is a genuine album, and with the material including Cindy Walker’s “Miss Molly” (the only song duplicated) to Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ At The Woodside” by way of Rex Griffin’s “The Last Letter” and “Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie” the material is diverse, and extremely well-chose and delivered. I would go as far to say this is one of the Wheel’s finest records, and when you take into consideration how many records they have made it is some (brave, yes, but no way foolish) statement! For AATW you have female vocalist Chris O’Connell show her worth on the likes of ‘The Last Letter” and “The Kind Of Love I Can’t Forget”, while with such superb male lead on “You And Me Instead” the standard is high. While the Austin-based band paying tribute to Wills the act deliver the fabulous “Don’t Ask Me Why (I’m Going To Texas”)  to go with stellar swing boogie instrumental, “Jumpin’ At The Woodside” . Loaded in pedal steel, pounding piano, fiddle, upright bass and brass it bounces along the tracks in regal fashion, to the degree you can't imagine there being a better version out there. 

Others from AATW include duet by O’Connell and an unnamed act in “Our Names Aren’t Mentioned (Together Anymore)”, and with such innovative playing adding to the splendid vocals the Leroy Preston tune is given a dream outing. On a similar  quality you have “Miss Molly” plus another from Preston in the pedal steel, harmony vocals warmed “Dead Man”.   

As for the part played by Bob Wills and his illustrious Texas Playboys, the release opens with an instrumental version (lyrics were only added later) of “San Antone Rose”; before easing through the likes of “Trouble In Mind”, the rousing and ever enjoyable “Take Me Back To Tulsa”, and with electric mandolin, piano, fiddle, rhythm and brass “Roly Poly”. Plus there's fetching ballad “I Can’t Go On This Way” and exquisite “I Can’t Go On This Way” plus loaded with moth watering twin-fiddles, “Time Changes Everything”, of the music, and style fashioned by Wills and his peers it is simply, timeless. 

It doesn’t end there for “Miss Molly” has The Leon McAuliffe Trio lead and weave their own spell on the Walker classic; before Duncan, Wills and the boys deliver a heart-tugging “The Convict And The News” and with the swing ensemble pulling out all the stops a hard to equal, never mind beat “The New San Antonio Rose”. If you are looking to sample something special, and unfortunately rarely if ever heard on radio here is something worth a long serious look, and then for you to buy. 

              Maurice Hope         


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May 2018

John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Continental Song City
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
Old Crow Medicine Show
24 pts.
Columbia Records
Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
Ben Reel
22 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
Birds Of Chicago
22 pts.
Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Eight 30 Records
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Bloodshot Records
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2

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