Posts Tagged With: Asleep at the Wheel

Grammy love for the Wheel, but not Ryan Adams

Grammy2016In the media blitz that accompanied the release of DRA 1989 back in September, there was some hyperbolic speculation about Grammy Awards — that the album might get Ryan Adams a few nominations, maybe even for album of the year to set up a Grammy showdown against Taylor Swift’s original 1989. But that turned out to be wishful thinking.

Grammy nominations are out today and Swift checks in with seven total, including the categories of record, song and (yes) album of the year. So she certainly did her part — but Ryan, alas, did not make the cut. He didn’t pick up any nominations this go-round, which means he’ll have to wait at least another year to win his first Grammy (Ryan has been nominated seven times since 2001 but has yet to win one).

AATWKingEven if Ryan wasn’t nominated this year, however, a handful of others from North Carolina were, most notably Fayetteville-raised hip-hop star J. Cole and Carolina Chocolate Drops co-founder Rhiannon Giddens. You can find a recap of North Carolina-connected nominations here.

On a personal level, meanwhile, there is a bit of Grammy news in my book-related world. My “Comin’ Right at Ya” co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson’s Asleep at the Wheel is up for best recording package with his group’s third and latest Bob Wills tribute album Still The King: Celebrating The Music Of Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys, alongside albums by Florence + the Machine, Snoop Dogg, Alagoas and the late Elvis Presley.

The Grammys will be presented on Feb. 15 in Los Angeles. If the Wheel wins, this would be the group’s first since 2000 (which was in this same category — for another Wills tribute, 1999’s Ride With Bob) and 10th overall. To read about the star-crossed night when Asleep at the Wheel won that very first Grammy way back in 1979, click the EXCERPTS link here.


 

WheelGrammy

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Asleep at the Wheel for the holidays

AATWXMASDunno how your holiday season is shaping up this year, but mine is looking quite Asleep at the Wheel-intensive. I already had them penciled in for New Year’s Eve with the Avett Brothers over in Greensboro. And closer to home, the Wheel has just been announced for Dec. 17 at the Carrboro ArtsCenter with a Western swing holiday-themed show titled “Merry Texas Christmas, Y’all!”

You might think it odd for someone of the Jewish faith to do a Christmas show. But as Ray puts it in the closing Epilogue of “Comin’ Right at Ya,” “We’ve done two Christmas albums even though I’m Jewish because, between Jesus and Irving Berlin, there would be no Christmas without Jews.”

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The “Comin’ Right at Ya” playlist, on largehearted boy

LHBIf you read “Comin’ Right at Ya” (and I sure hope you will!), you might find yourself seeking some of the music to listen to while turning pages. Well, folks, I’m here to help. At the behest of the very fine book/music blog largehearted boy, I’ve put together a playlist of songs from Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel as well as some of the group’s key contemporaries from throughout their 45-year history. That’s LHB’s “Book Notes” column for today, and you’ll find it here. While you’re reading, take a listen.

I also did one of these LHB playlists for “Losering” back in 2012, which you can find linked from here.

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Publication day!

Today, Oct. 1, is the “official” publication date for “Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel.” I’m marking the occasion here because I won’t have any time for celebrating. Today will find me scurrying around all day and long into the night covering the big World of Bluegrass festival here in Raleigh, which is keeping me plenty busy this week — especially with Hurricane Joaquin apparently bearing down on us. Fun!

As for how co-writer/subject/star Ray Benson will mark his authorial debut, it should come as no surprise that he’ll do it onstage. Asleep at the Wheel is playing its traditional opening slot for this weekend’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, taking the stage just after noon Central Time Friday.

Down the road a bit, Ray and I will both do some bookstore-type events, separately as well as together. You can find me Oct. 8 at Books & Brew in Southern Village and Oct. 21 at Quail Ridge in Raleigh; and Ray is doing a hometown reading at Austin’s Book People on Nov. 18. And on Oct. 18, Ray and I will also appear together at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, at the State Capitol Auditorium.

Y’all come!

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Comin’ right at Luke Bryan

LukeBryanThis should be interesting, a moderate media imbroglio just in time for this week’s publication day of “Comin’ Right at Ya.” I can tell you from experience that subject/star/co-writer Ray Benson is a man who speaks his mind. And in a recent interview with the Lowell Sun in Massachusetts to preview an Asleep at the Wheel show up that way, Ray was quoted saying some not-so-glowing things about modern mainstream country music in general, and bro-hunk Luke Bryan in particular:

You can relate to picking up girls, drinking beer and hot pants. The thematic stuff is what bothers me. I don’t like Luke Bryan and those guys, because there’s no originality. Every song follows pretty much the same chord progression. That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself. Hank Williams used the same four chords, but there’s no melodic integrity and the words are just silly.

You listen to Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline or Willie Nelson. None sound like the other. It’s individuality at its best. Patsy Cline was a pop singer, but with country sensibilities.

Let me qualify this by saying there’s great country music made today by lots of people, it’s just not getting on mainstream radio.

That quote has since been been picked up elsewhere, so…I guess we’ll see if Bryan has anything to say in return — and if that moves the needle at all once the book comes out.

RayLuke

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Kissa me baby

CamRaleighAs a deejay, I think I’m a decent writer. Nevertheless, for the first time ever I’m going to give actual live, public deejaying a whirl this week at the Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh. As part of the museum’s current “Big Bent Ears” (which is billed as a “multimedia installation about listening,” showing at CAM until Dec. 3), exhibit co-curator Sam Stephenson is inviting different people to come in for guest-deejay shifts. My turn in the rotation will be 8-10 p.m. this Thursday, Sept. 24.

The guest-deejay part of “Big Bent Ears” is called Kissa, referring to the listening salons that originated in Japan in the 1950s. These deejay shifts have been happening at CAM since early June, tapping a wide range of guests including Whiskeytown alumni Steve Grothmann, Caitlin Cary and Skillet Gilmore, plus Branford Marsalis and members of Hiss Golden Messenger, Chatham County Line, Superchunk, Mountain Goats, CousinsArt of Cool and other local-music notables.

My playlist is still a work in progress, but I expect it will have a song or two from Asleep at the Wheel and Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown. And since the preferred Kissa medium is vinyl, I’m going to do my best to make my shift an all-vinyl experience. Not playing anything on compact disc will impose some limitations, of course. But as you can see from the picture at the bottom, at least I’ve got a decent amount of vinyl to draw from. Come on out…

EPILOGUE — and here’s what I ended up playing:

1 – Peter Case, “Steel Strings”
2 – Tift Merritt, “Mixtape”
3 – Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell, “Good Lovin’ Ain’t Easy to Come By”
4 – Pete Townshend, “Mary”
5 – dB’s, “Black and White”
6 – Vincent Guaraldi, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”
7 – Josh Moore, “May It Ever Be”
8 – Don Henley, “Bramble Rose”
9 – Whiskeytown, “Heart Is Broken”
10 – Little Feat, “Easy to Slip”
11 – Asleep at the Wheel, “House of Blue Lights”
12 – Del Lords, “Love Lies Dying”
13 – Sly & the Family Stone, “Luv N’ Haight”
14 – Big Audio Dynamite, “Relativity”
15 – Kinky Friedman, “Sold American”
16 – Feelies, “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)”
17 – Spinners, “One of a Kind Love Affair”
18 – Ry Cooder, “She’s Leaving the Bank”
19 – China Crisis, “Wishful Thinking”
20 – Ryan Adams, “Magnolia Mountain”
21 – The Balancing Act, “Adventure”
22 – Let’s Active, “Counting Down”
23 – T-Bone Burnett, “Quicksand”
24 – The Lucy Show, “A Million Things”
25 – Peter Case, “Satellite Beach”
26 – Drive-By Truckers, “Heathens”
27 – Tift Merritt, “Papercut”
28 – Robyn Hitchcock, “Madonna of the Wasps”
29 – Sam Phillips, “Out of Time”
30 – R.E.M., “Perfect Circle”
31 – Ryan Adams, “Hey There Mrs. Lovely”

VinylStacks

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Worlds colliding: My ‘hood is Asleep at the Wheel

ChrisB

Chris Boerner onstage at Raleigh’s Pour House nightclub with The Hot at Nights. Photo by Robert Pettus.

It’s always fun when acquaintances from different quadrants of my world brush up against each other, especially in far-away places. So it is that “Comin’ Right at Ya” star/co-writer Ray Benson is playing with Asleep at the Wheel tonight at a club in Pawling, New York, which is almost 600 miles north of my hometown of Raleigh. Opening tonight’s show will be Jeanne Jolly, a very fine Americana singer/songwriter from around these parts — whose guitar player, Chris Boerner, lives right around the corner from me. Chris is one of the coolest guitarists in this area and also plays with electronic soul group The Foreign Exchange and his own jazz band The Hot At Nights.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing a Ray Benson story or two the next time I bump into Chris around the ‘hood.

AATWJJ

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Asleep at the Wheel on New Year’s Eve

In my personal hierarchy of holidays, New Year’s Eve ranks near the bottom. Anywhere you go that night tends to be overcrowded with too many people trying way too hard to cram too much “fun” into one night, because they don’t get out enough the rest of the year. But this New Year’s Eve looks like it has some potential to be really cool.

Nice to see Asleep at the Wheel opening for the Avett Brothers, especially after the Avetts were one of the acts contributing to the Wheel’s latest Bob Wills tribute album Still the King.

AATWNYE

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Making movies

Here’s a pretty cool little nugget, the “Comin’ Right at Ya” book trailer. University of Texas Press put this together as a preview of the book, with some of its photographs and choice quotes set to the strains of Asleep at the Wheel’s “Dance With Who Brung You.” Check it out, y’all.

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Coming in Rocktober: The Texas Book Festival

tbf

The author lineup is out for the 2015 Texas Book Festival (a great time on the festival circuit, the literary world’s equivalent of South By Southwest), and I’m very pleased to report that yours truly made the cut. I’ll be appearing with my “Comin’ Right at Ya” subject/co-writer, the legendary Ray Benson, and we’ll be doing…well, something.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure just what Ray and I are going to do yet, or even where or when; maybe some sort of Q&A session involving an Asleep at the Wheel performance. But I can tell you that it will happen sometime on Oct. 18 in Austin — and I believe it will be a free event. This will be my second time at TBF, following a very fun and enlightening 2012 appearance when I was promoting “Losering.”

RBTBF

The one and only Ray Benson.

Me aside, it’s a great-looking lineup of authors featuring Kristin Hersh (about whom I’ve raved at some length in this space) among the other festival participants. Other music-related participants include my fellow rock scribes Jessica Hopper and “Dean of American Rock Critics” Robert Christgau; and from the non-music end, a long-ago News & Observer co-worker of mine, Joby Warrick (nowadays a certifiably big deal Washington Post reporter, promoting a mighty important-looking book called “Black Flags: The Rise of Isis”).

Golly, the Austin Chronicle is referring to the author list as “The Mighty 300.” And here’s some more love for the lineup from the Dallas Morning News.

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