Asleep at the Wheel - Half A Hundred Years
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Half A Hundred Years (Home Records/Thirty Tigers, 2021)

Asleep at the Wheel

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

Asleep at the Wheel founder Ray Benson credits singer Jamey Johnson with inspiring the title track upon declaring "That's half a hundred years!" when told of the anniversary of the founding of Asleep at the Wheel. Frontman Benson is the lone constant presence during that half century of recording and touring, but several past members including Leroy Preston, Lucky Oceans and Chris O'Connell (who were part of the band's 1973 debut release "Comin' Right At Ya") are on hand for this celebration.

Former drummer/rhythm guitarist Preston contributes some of the best moments with several compositions and lead vocals, including the uptempo, but deceptively melancholy "I Do What I Must" about the decline in quality of life amidst the aging process ("Now my days drag on much longer/So the nights seem shortened down"). The bluesy "Paycheck to Paycheck" is a similarly dark tale of economic strife ("It's real mean living/A poor man's last stop/Keep livin' paycheck to paycheck/Without any job"), while "The Photo" is a classic country weeper about lost love ("I'm taking down the photo/The one you left for me/It tears me up too much/To watch you smile endlessly").

The cheerful "Bump Bounce Boogie" features some of the group's female lead singers with current member Katie Shore sharing verses with O'Connell and Elizabeth McQueen. O'Connell takes the spotlight on the amusing "My Little Baby" in which the singer contemplates taking extreme measures to get her ex back ("Just in case I'll put the handcuffs in my purse/If my little baby still walks this universe"), while Lucky Oceans contributes "I Love You Most of All (When You're Not Here)."

Other highlights find Benson supported by luminaries such as Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris ("The Road Will Hold Me Tonight"), Lyle Lovett ("There You Go Again") and Lee Ann Womack ("The Letter Johnny Walker Read").

Following up on the EP "Better Days" this epic 19-track set nicely continues the celebration of 50 years of Asleep at the Wheel.

CDs by Asleep at the Wheel

Half A Hundred Years, 2021 New Routes, 2018 Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, 2015 It's a Good Day, 2010

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