A band as seasoned as Asleep at the Wheel hardly needs to put out new music these days. With a 48-year run that spans more than 20 albums, there’s plenty of material for Ray Benson and his crew to draw upon. But the Texas-based Western swing ensemble is back at it with a new LP, New Routes, and a youthful reimagining of an old-fashioned ode to getting high, “Jack I’m Mellow.”
Benson’s figure has towered over Asleep at the Wheel since its founding in West Virginia in 1970, not only for his unmistakable height but also as the group’s lone constant member. The lead role on “Jack I’m Mellow,” however, belongs to vocalist Katie Shore, who handles singing and fiddle duties on the bubbling, bopping number. Equal parts Western dance hall and vaudeville showtune, its jazzy horn arrangement harkens back to the song’s most well-known rendition by blues singer Trixie Smith in the Thirties.
Typical of Asleep at the Wheel’s catalog, New Routes, due to be released September 14th, mixes the new with the old, the band’s first album of mostly new material in over a decade. Besides some notable covers, like one of Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues,” it features Benson’s first cowrite with a band member since the Eighties, “Call It a Day Tonight,” which he penned with Shore. She also contributes two other originals of her own. Seth and Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers make a cameo on the closing track, “Willie Got There First,” written by Scott Avett.
Winners of 10 Grammy awards, Asleep at the Wheel rarely spend much time in their longtime hometown, Austin, Texas, despite Benson having celebrated his 67th birthday during South By Southwest last March. They play Missouri Theatre in Columbia, Missouri, on Friday, July 13th.
The tracklist for Asleep at the Wheel’s New Routes:
- “Jack I’m Mellow” (Public Domain / Arranger Ray Benson)
- “Pencil Full of Lead” (Paolo Nutini)
- “Call It a Day Tonight” (Ray Benson, Katie Shore)
- “Seven Nights to Rock” (Buck Trail, Henry Glover, Louis Innis)
- “Dublin Blues” (Guy Clark)
- “I Am Blue” (Katie Shore)
- “Pass the Bottle Around” (Ray Benson)
- “Big River” (Johnny Cash / House of Cash Inc (BMI))
- “Weary Rambler” (Katie Shore)
- “More Days Like This” (Seth Walker, Gary Nicholson)
- “Willie Got There First” ft. Seth and Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers (Seth Avett)