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Fall in love with Western swing for the first time....or all over again!

  • Mar 3, 2009
In 1982, CBS records released a series of five 2 LP sets featuring the music of the legendary Okeh records.  Okeh began life as an independent record label in 1918 and became a subsidiary of Columbia records in the late 1920's.  Each one of the five releases in this series featured a different genre of music including Blues, Country, Soul, Rhythm & Blues and Western Swing.  I purchased three of these sets and was most impressed by the album devoted to "Western Swing".  I had never heard of this genre before but I was duly impressed.   It was unlike any music I had ever heard before.  Western swing can be best described as the fusion of sounds including cowboyfolk, Dixieland jazz and even polka.  I found the music to be upbeat and incredibly entertaining.  What I heard way back then made me long to hear more.  Over the years I  have purchased a number of albums by such Western Swing artists as the legendary Bob Wills and His Texas PlayboysHank Thompson and Tex Williams.  Recently, I discovered a brand new western swing disc entitled "Willie & The Wheel" featuring Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel.  I ordered it immediately.  "Willie and the Wheel" was conceived over 30 years ago by the fabled Atlantic records producer Jerry Wexler.  According to the liner notes "Wexler got the idea to record Willie Nelson doing classic Western Swing songs on an album.  Willie had been on Jerry's label, Atlantic, and it was not a hard stretch to see why Jerry wanted to do this.  Although Jerry was known as "Mr. R & B" he was a closet fan of the great Western Swing bands.  But before the record could be made WIllie left Atlantic for CBS records and so the idea was put to rest.".  

In 2003, 86 year old Jerry Wexler resurrected the idea for this project.  It would become a labor of love for everyone involved.  Jerry enlisted Asleep At The Wheel to backup Willie Nelson.  This was a marriage made in heaven.  "Willie and The Wheel" features a dozen tunes hand picked by Jerry Wexler more than 30 years ago.  The man obviously knew what he was doing.  The result is an album that can be relished by life-long Western Swing afficianados and enjoyed by those sampling the genre for the very first time.  You'll hear traditional favorites like "Hesitation Blues""Corrine, Corrina" and  "Oh, You Pretty Woman".   My personal favorite was a tune penned by Western Swing legend Spade Cooley called "Shame On You".  I also thoroughly enjoyed "Sweet Jennie Lee" and a terrific number entitled "I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None O' This Jellyroll".  The fact of the matter is that there is not a bad track on the entire album.  Perhaps the most intriguing tune on "Willie and The Wheel" is the album's only instrumental "South".   "Late Night With David Lettermen" bandleader Paul Shaffer joins in on the fun as does country music fave Vince Gill.  

What really adds to the enjoyment of "Willie & The Wheel" is the fact that the lead vocals are shared by Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel's Ray Benson and Elizabeth McQueen.  And as you might expect the musicianship on this disc is absolutely incredible.  At Jerry Wexler's insistence horns were added to a number of these tracks and the results are nothing short of spectacular.  If you have never heard Western Swing before I suggest that you do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this disc.  In their promotion for this album the record company is referring to "Willie & The Wheel" as an "instant classic".   In my view that is a pretty fair assessment.  So broaden your musical horizons by giving this one a listen.   You certainly won't regret it!        Very highly recommended!
Willie Nelson Asleep At The Wheel Fall in love with Western swing for the first time....or all over again! Fall in love with Western swing for the first time....or all over again!

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March 03, 2009
Jerry Wexler was a visionary. I don't think he gets his due with a lot of people.
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review by . March 03, 2009
Willie and the Wheel!
 Over the years, Willie Nelson has put out so many brilliant songs that cross boundaries and certainly stand out when you hear them on the radio.  I got a feeling the majority of people can hear his voice and instantly recognize it...and then start singing along because we all know the song!  Well...ok, maybe the fact that I am from Texas makes me a bit biased, but I bet most people can pick him out of a lineup because the man does stand out.  He has worked with many great artists over the years …
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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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It was just a matter of time before Willie Nelson cut a record with fellow Texan legends Asleep at the Wheel: Willie may duet with anybody who wanders onto his bus, but he and the Wheel have a shared background in Western swing, a background they explore thoroughly on 2009's Willie and the Wheel. If it seems like Willie and the Wheel should have cut an album together a little earlier than 2009, well, they almost did. During Nelson's seminal stint at Atlantic in the early '70s, producer/label head Jerry Wexler urged Willie to record a duet album with the Wheel, but Nelson left the label before it could happen. The idea was revived when Wexler saw Asleep at the Wheel open for Nelson in 2007 and soon enough, the two parties got together to run through a bunch of standards. Surprise isn't the order of the day on Willie and the Wheel; it's pretty easy to guess the songbook just based on the collaboration and sure enough, there's a hefty dose of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys -- "Right or Wrong," "Bring it on Down to My House," "Corrine Corrina" -- and a bunch of Milton Brown, Cliff Bruner, and Spade Cooley. Chances are, many of the songs would have remained the same if this had been cut back in the early '70s, but the spirit is much different. Back then, the teaming would have been the sound of young insurgents creating their own bridge to the past, but this is the sound of the old guard settling in and doing what they do best, laying back instead of pushing forward, enjoying ...

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Label: Bismeaux Records
Genre: Western Swing
Release Date: February 3, 2009

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