Issue April 29, 2009

Willie and the Wheel

Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel
Bismeaux

Nelson and “modern swing kings” Asleep at the Wheel have joined forces for Willie and the Wheel. The project dreamed up by the late and legendary producer Jerry Wexler at least 30 years ago is only now coming to fruition. As always, Nelson reminds us that his unremarkable voice somehow melds itself effortlessly with any genre that happens to strike his fancy. Asleep at the Wheel’s bounce adds an authenticity to the songs, painting the picture of Willie and friends around an upright piano like the drunken chorus in an Old West saloon. The subtle beauty of this music is that there’s an intimacy already established in our familiarity with songs like “Sweet Jennie Lee,” “I’m Sittin’ on Top of the World” and “Won’t You Ride My Little Red Wagon.” Willie and the Wheel doesn’t break any new ground or come off as terribly prolific — in fact, in one way or another it’s just Willie being Willie, and that’s good enough for me.