Asleep at the Wheel and Leon Rausch
It’s a Good Day
[Bismeaux Records (2010)]
Pairing longtime Bob Wills vocalist Leon Rausch with western swing road warriors Asleep at the Wheel was one of those common sense ideas that proved to be as successful in execution as it seemed on paper. Rausch and the Wheel run through a set of great tunes from the 40s through early 60s that are delivered with style and swing like crazy. Rausch’s butter smooth vocals belie his eighty-two years, and he is equally comfortable singing the title tune (a hit for Peggy Lee in 1946) as he is Sheb Wolley’s rockabilly hit “Mean Woman With the Green Eyes” and the flat-out Dixieland version of “Basin Street Blues.” During his days with Wills, Rausch often shared the spotlight with other vocalists, and he does here as well: With Willie Nelson on “Truck Driver’s Blues”; with new Asleep at the Wheel vocalist Elizabeth McQueen on the sassy “Alright, Okay, You Win”; and with Wheel leader and guitarist Ray Benson on several tunes, including a boogie woogie remake of “Get Your Kicks (on Route 66).” After a few decades of artistic ups and downs, Asleep At the Wheel again seems to be firing on all cylinders, and they are given a bit of extra octane thanks to McQueen and the appearance on several tracks of one of the brightest of their many alumni, Austin piano player Floyd Domino. In addition to his vocal duties, Rausch even strapped on an electric bass for the powerful version of the Wills instrumental “Osage Stomp” that closes out this delightful set.
—Michael Parrish (San Jose, CA)
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