After 48 years of making music, Asleep at the Wheel will be the first to admit there’s nothing new under the sun — and when it comes to country songs, you can probably thank Willie Nelson for those. So says the veteran Texas swing act on their latest track, “Willie Got There First,” featuring Seth and Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers.
Written by Seth Avett, “Willie Got There First” is a playful ode to the Red Headed Stranger and his omnipresent influence on the genre. “I had such a good idea for a song, but Willie got there first,” he sings, his voice taking on a hint of Nelson’s own famous, airy warble. Dropping in references to several of Nelson’s songs and albums, including Phases and Stages, the song spares no compliment, even comparing the 85-year-old Texan to a “Renaissance master.” That cross-generational admiration gets underlined by Asleep at the Wheel frontman Ray Benson — a cohort of Nelson’s since the Seventies — chiming in on the last verse and chorus. Guests on the track include two longtime Nelson collaborators: his sister Bobbie, at the piano, and Mickey Raphael playing the harmonica.
“Willie Got There First” will be the final track on New Routes, the 11-song collection due out September 14th that is Asleep at the Wheel’s first of mostly new music in over a decade. The 10-time Grammy winning band visits Kalamazoo, Michigan tonight to play Bell’s Electric Cafe.