Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2009 release, a collaboration between the two Country music legends. Jerry Wexler's long-overdue concept album takes Willie Nelson back to his musical roots. Teamed up with Ray Benson and the master musicianship of Asleep at the Wheel, this instant classic celebrates the timeless appeal of a most unique and spirited American music genre. Fall in love with Western Swing... again! 12 tracks.
JazzTimes (p.113) - "[T]he headliners are supremely comfortable with each other....Benson carries his share of the vocal burdens with a rusticated charm, most memorably on 'Oh! You Pretty Woman.'"
Dirty Linen (p.47) - "Besides AATW's exemplary playing and Nelson's own inimitable vocals and syncopated phrasing, this collaboration stands uniquely on its own..."
Billboard (p.33) - "[T]he top-notch players do a fine job of interpretation here....The set is so authentic one almost feels guilty listening to it on modern speakers instead of seated around the old Victrola."
Uncut (magazine) (p.117) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[M]usically immaculate....[With] smooth vocal harmonies over tight rhythms that have a demon fiddle/guitar/piano solo lurking in every niche."
Personnel: Willie Nelson (vocals); Ray Benson (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Jason Roberts (vocals, mandolin, electric mandolin, fiddle); Elizabeth McQueen (vocals); Sam Seifert (acoustic guitar); Vince Gill (electric guitar); Eddie Rivers (steel guitar); Jonathan Doyle (clarinet); Dave Alexander (trumpet); Michael Mordecai (trombone); Paul Shaffer, John Michael Whitby, Floyd Domino (piano); Dave Miller, Kevin Smith (bass guitar); David Sanger (drums); Peter Schwarz .
Audio Mixers: Ray Benson; Sam Seifert; Adam Odor.
Audio Remasterers: Don Cobb; Eric Conn.
Liner Note Author: Ray Benson.
Recording information: Bismeaux Studios, Austin, TX; Blackbird Studios, Nashville, TN; Perdenales Studios.
Photographer: Lisa Pollard .
Arranger: Ray Benson.
Bringing Willie Nelson and Western Swing revivalists Asleep at the Wheel together for an album of Western Swing classics was a dream project for legendary producer Jerry Wexler, who had wanted to do it back in the 1970s, when Willie was still with Atlantic. (It wound up being one of the last recordings he worked on before his death in 2008.) Better late than never, Nelson and the band finally teamed up for WILLIE AND THE WHEEL.
The Wheel had recently backed Willie up on tour, so they knew just how to make their sound work for the singer, and sure enough, Nelson's vocals fit the band's tight-but-swinging sound like the proverbial glove. Tackling tunes made famous by Bob Wills and others, they keep it traditional, staying within the stylistic template established some six decades earlier, but still stamping the project with plenty of their own distinctive personality.