Tuesday, 13 Oct 2015

Willie and The Wheel

Image Willie and the Wheel
Willie Nelson - Asleep At The Wheel
Bismeaux Records

The first thing I noticed on first listen of the new album 'Willie and the Wheel' was the attitude, the bounce and the drive, as if there were a huge party that all the best musicians in the business were invited to at Bismeaux studios where Willie Nelson just happened to be recording. Packed with great songs from the Western Swing genre, the project was originally slated by legendary R&B producer Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records over 30 years ago when Willie was on the label. Unable to complete it then, it was many years later that it was resumed as a special project after the 'Last of the breed' tour with Willie, Merle Haggard, Ray Price and Asleep at the Wheel was recorded for a PBS television broadcast showcasing western swing and Texas country music. It was a natural fit for Willie who had been raised on the Texas swing sounds of Bob Wills, Milton Brown and others easily incorporating Nelson's jazzy, back-phrasing, beat skipping vocals that also match perfectly as well with the dead on amazing work of producer Ray Benson.

While many people have the mistaken image of Western Swing as 'Country music with more fiddles', rest assured this album is a testament to the extreme musicianship it takes to actually play it right. Golden from beginning to end, the list of musicians working on this album really does read like a who's who in the business. Beautiful combinations of   steel, horns, fiddles and more become works of art with the magic of Willie Nelson's interpretation of classic gems. Mix in  a couple of guest appearances from music giants Vince Gill and Paul Shaffer and this album is sealed as a must have for anyone who appreciates excellence in their music. To leave one person out would be a sin of epic proportion so the musicians involved in this album are as follows:

Dave Sanger: Drums
Dave Miller: Bass
Kevin Smith: Bass
Floyd Domino: Piano
John Michael Whitby: Piano
Jason Roberts: Fiddle, Electric Mandolin, Vocals
Eddie Rivers: Steel Guitar
Ray Benson: Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Vocals
Willie Nelson: Vocals
Elizabeth McQueen: Vocals
Sam Seifert: Acoustic Guitar
Dave Alexander: Trumpet
Mike Mordecai: Trombone
Jonathan Doyle: Clarinet
Paul Shaffer: Piano
Vince Gill: Electric Guitar

Jerry Wexler did not live to see the project completed. Ray Benson stated 'It was a sad day when the news came in that Jerry Wexler had passed away. We're so proud to have had this opportunity to make this record with him'. With songs like 'Hesitation Blues', Bring It On Down To My House', 'I'm Sittin' On Top Of The World', 'Won't You Ride In My Little Red Wagon' and others done with the passion and perfection that Willie, Ray Benson and all the musicians involved in this album brought with them, Wexler can rest in peace knowing that this is one of the finest albums ever recorded.


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