My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Asleep At The Wheel – ‘Asleep At The Wheel’

mi0001667918Asleep At The Wheel recorded their only album for MCA Nashville in 1985. The project, their second to be self-titled, didn’t have any singles released to radio. The album features an eclectic selection of material, interspersing covers and original tunes.

Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys originally recorded three of the album’s songs. The versions found here are excellent, with “Deep Water” and “Your Red Wagon” being highlights. Junior Brown provides Lap Pedal Steel on the former, his first recorded appearance. I also enjoyed “Across The Alley From the Alamo” even though I don’t have a connection to the Texas landmark.

I was disappointed in opening number “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” a traditional song that typically shreds much harder than their slightly somber interpretation. Chris O’Connell joins Benson for a duet of John Hiatt’s “This Is The Way We Make A Broken Heart,” a tune Rosanne Cash would take to #1 a few years later.

O’Connell is similarly terrific singing lead on both Paul Young’s sinister “Baby” and the rip-roaring “Switchin’ In The Kitchen.” Willie Nelson contributes harmonies to his “Write Your Own Songs,” a lyric he penned in response to the record executives who dared interfere with his artistic process. The final two numbers, “Liar’s Moon” and “Shorty” are Benson originals and both are quite good.

There exists a dated sheen to this album, which is to be expected given its age (it was released 31 years ago). But the musicianship and their tightness as a band nicely shine through the slightly warmed over tones. I don’t regard Asleep At The Wheel as an exceptional album, but it is very, very good and worth seeking out.

Grade: A

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2 responses to “Album Review: Asleep At The Wheel – ‘Asleep At The Wheel’

  1. Paul W Dennis October 12, 2016 at 6:48 am

    MCA actually issued this album in two different versions with the 1988 cassette/CD version (under the Dot label) scrapping “Cotton-Eyed Joe” , “Switchin’ In The Kitchen”, “Baby” and “Shorty”. The replacement songs are “Midnight In Memphis”, Loretta Lynn’s “You Wanna Give Me A Lift”, and two Ray Benson compositions “Cool As A Breeze” and “Lonely Avenue Revisited”

    The replacement songs I think are slightly better than the songs that they replaced but I would give the reissued version an A

  2. Rich Leonard October 13, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    This album is actually a repackaging of a 1985 Canadian LP titled “Pasture Prime” on the Stony Plain label. The “replacement” songs are from the1980 MCA album titled “Framed.”

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