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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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September 2018

The Devil Makes Three
70 pts.
Chains Are Broken
New West
Jimmy LaFave
65 pts.
Peace Town
Music Road Records
Malcolm Holcombe
48 pts.
Come Hell Or High Water
Gypsy Eyes Music
Cody Canada & the Departed
47 pts.
Blue Rose Records
Jeffrey Foucault
43 pts.
Blood Brothers
Blueblade Records
The War And Treaty
42 pts.
Healing Tide
Thirty Tigers
Martha Fields
40 pts.
Dancing Shadows
The Weight Band
35 pts.
World Gone Mad
Must Have Music
David Olney
32 pts.
This Side Or The Other
Black Hen Music
The Black Sorrows
32 pts.
Citizen John
Blue Rose Records
Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis
31 pts.
Wild Wild Wild
Bloodshot Records
Hadley McCall Thackston
28 pts.
Hadley McCall Thackston
Wolfe Island Records
Nathan Bell
28 pts.
Er Gwaetha Pawb a Phopeth
Angry Stick
Curse Of Lono
26 pts.
As I Fell
Submarine Cat Records
Ryan Martin
25 pts.
Gimme Some Light
High Moon
Stephen Simmons
25 pts.
Locke Creek Records
Jason McNiff
23 pts.
Joy And Independence
At The Helm Records
Jim Lauderdale
23 pts.
Time Flies
Yep Roc
Kevin Gordon
23 pts.
Tilt and Shine
Crowville Media
Eliza Gilkyson
21 pts.
Red House Records
Boz Scaggs
20 pts.
Out Of the Blues
Concord Records
20 pts.
Among The Ghosts
Thirty Tigers
Melissa Carper & Rebecca Patek
20 pts.
Brand New Old-Time Songs
The Jayhawks
17 pts.
Back Roads and Abandoned Motels
Lori McKenna
16 pts.
Cn Records

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