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Asleep at the Wheel keeps rolling

City Winery Boston, Boston, July 1, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Asleep at the Wheel has managed to keep the flame of Western Swing music alive for 49 years and with shows like this, showed no signs of slowing down.

For AATW, that meant paying a lot of tribute for the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills, something they have done on three excellent albums. And they further gave homage with their take on Waylon Jennings' "Bob Wills is Still the King." The start of the concert felt like a greatest hits run through of Western Swing, including "Cherokee Maiden."

There was a lot to like about the music with its confluence of country, jazz and blues influences. Guitar, fiddle, lap steel and horns all made for an invigorating night of music.

AATW released a new album, "New Routes," last year, but didn't feel any pressure to push the release at all, playing only a song or two from it.

Ray Benson, of course, is the brains behind AATW. Perhaps his voice has weathered a bit, but he remains a capable singer. He also received a good measure of vocal support from fiddle player Katie Shore. Long-time drummer David Sanger helped set just the right beat throughout.

With a band that has had many members over the years, it was a particular pleasure to enjoy the lap steel work of Cindy Cashdollar. This was not her first rodeo with AATW though, although she was temporarily filling in as her predecessor gave two weeks notice before retiring.

Cashdollar always has been a fluid, lyrical player, and that did not change one iota.

Benson could have made fewer references to being old as he did so a few times when talking about computers and being online with the mentality of a luddite. Yes, we get that AATW is pretty much a throwback band, but don't date yourself even more with comments that were not particularly humorous.

But the emphasis was on the music for AATW, of course. We are fortunate that they continue to breathe life into Western Swing, sounding as lively as ever. It seemed only fitting that Benson and company ended with the Roy Rogers/Norton Buffalo chestnut "Happy Trails," sending us on our way.

May the Wheel keep on rolling.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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