Picks and Pans Review: Western Standard Time

updated 10/24/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/24/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Asleep at the Wheel

For nearly 20 years, through a series of permutations anchored mainly by lead vocalist-guitarist-bass player-leader Ray Benson, Asleep at the Wheel has performed as a living museum of Swing Era music, western branch. The group has never gone so totally throwback as it does on this album devoted to music of the '30s, '40s and '50s. The band members might as well be wearing spectator shoes and driving Studebakers. The group's ability to put a contemporary spin on old favorites hasn't deserted them. Benson never lapses into imitations, but he suggests Phil Harris' swagger on That's What I Like About the South and Tex Williams' prehistoric, Texas-style rap on Hot Rod Lincoln; to the extent that anyone can come close to emoting like the original old E.T., he even recalls Ernest Tubb on Walking the Floor over You. That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day) lacks a little of Frankie Laine's extravagance, and neither Benson nor guest vocalist Willie Nelson quite match the strange macho-nasal tone of Tex Beneke on the Glenn Miller hit Chattanooga Choo Choo. Still, there's plenty of fun to go around with saxophonist Mike Francis and fiddlers Larry Franklin and Johnny Gimble making noteworthy contributions. (Epic)

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