Asleep at the Wheel mark 50 years together as a band with the upcoming album Half a Hundred Years. It’s an all-star project, with artists like Lyle Lovett and Lee Ann Womack joining Wheel leader Ray Benson and his big Texas band. For “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” released on Friday, two Lone Star icons come onboard: Willie Nelson and George Strait.
Strait handles the bulk of the verses of the Western swing standard, popularized by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys in 1941. It’s a staple for Strait, who often drops “Take Me Back to Tulsa” into his own set lists. Nelson shows up for the final verse, singing about wearing a “great big smile” and traveling around the country “playing music by the hour.” The recording is a summit of Texas greats, but it’s the musicianship of Asleep at the Wheel that makes the collaboration more than a novelty. The fiddles saw, the steel resonates, and the guitars ring, with Benson doing his best impression of Wills’ “ahhh” call throughout.
Asleep at the Wheel announced Half a Hundred Years earlier this month with the title track. “I was trying to get across the sacrifices you have to make in 50 years on the road and the other positive side of it. The great experiences, the places I’ve been, and all the amazing people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and play music with,” Benson said in a statement. Half a Hundred Years will be released October 1st.