Asleep at the Wheel: They sound anything but…

7th July 2017

Title: Ten/Greatest Hits: Live & Kickin’/Western Standard Time/Keepin’ Me Up Nights

Label: Floating World

Bob Wills was and still is the godfather of Western swing in terms of country music and, back in the 70s, Asleep at the Wheel was seen as the group to create an energetic resurgence in a genre which had lain fallow for some time. Wheel did more than instigate a resurgence, though, they pushed the genre and encouraged its evolution to establish it as a living entity instead of a retro museum sound.

Wheel itself is a bit of an entity in itself because the group numbers around eight to 11 members at any one time. Also, you thought the ever changing line ups of prog bands such as Yes and King Crimson were exhausting to follow with any success? Get a peek at Wheel, they’ve had around 80 different people come and go! To focal point? Front man Ray Benson, is the guy who has maintained a cohesion and the fires of enthusiasm.

Presumably, the other 73 band members are sitting inside the bus

The four albums collected on this two disc set focus upon the late 80s and early 90s period of the band including 1987’s Ten, which celebrates the band’s tenth album for Colombia (you see what they did there, right?) That album saw the return of Chris O’Connell, fiddler Larry Franklin, steel guitarist John Ely, pianist/accordionist Tim Alexander, saxophonist Mike Francis, bassist Jon Mitchell and drummer David Sanger. Ten was a come-back after some financial difficulties but the album entered the Top 20 of the country album and singles charts. This was the first time in, oddly enough, 10 years. House of Blue Lights was a hit while String of Pearls won a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental.

It’s not a camera trick…he is that tall

The Greatest Hits package (1991) was recorded in a roadhouse in Austin, Texas. It’s a great entry point for beginners to the band who are full of enthusiasm and energy. Western Standard Time (1988) was the follow-up to Ten. The band were suddenly on a roll as they won the Best Country Instrumental Grammy for Sugarfoot Rag. Keepin’ Me Up Nights saw the band move to Arista. Despite the dip in quality and the change in line-up because of it, this album was merely a precursor of more good times to come.

A great value for money for package from an interesting evolutionary period for the band. An ideal catch-up collection for fans.