Ray Benson, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, formed western swing band Asleep at the Wheel in 1970 in Paw Paw, West Virginia. The band soon moved to East Oakland, California, then to Austin, Texas, which has been the band's home base since 1973. With an ever-changing roster, Asleep at the Wheel has more than 80 alumni. Asleep at the Wheel has recorded more than 20 studio albums, the most recent being Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, released on March 3, 2015.
At City Winery tonight, Asleep at the Wheel performed a western swing set that resounded eerily from another era. Benson and company continued striving to revive music that is perhaps too roots-based for the general country music market and too country for the mainstream market. When the music leaned towards big band swing, a fiddle or pedal steel replaced the traditional sound of the clarinet to countrify the sound, and when the band rocked, the musical chops harbored a latent skeleton of honky tonk. Benson crooned especially well on the softer, jazzier songs, but his deep voice also gave a wave to the bouncy boogie woogie songs. Toe-tappers from start to finish, the songs reveled in a celebration of the richness of Americana music.
Visit Asleep at the Wheel at www.asleepatthewheel.com.