Willie Nelson, George Strait + More Will Join Asleep at the Wheel for Their 50th Anniversary Album
Asleep at the Wheel have officially hit 50 years as a band, and to mark the milestone, they're celebrating with a new album, appropriately titled Half a Hundred Years. Due out on Oct. 1, the project will feature 19 tracks and an all-star collection of special guests.
Some of those featured performers hail from the many prior lineups the band has taken over the past five decades; original AATW members Chris O'Connell, Leroy Preston and Lucky Oceans all make an appearance, for example.
Then, the band enlist two legendary Texans -- Willie Nelson and George Strait -- to fully embrace their Texas country leanings on Bob Wills' Western Swing standard, "Take Me Back to Tulsa." "To me, it doesn't get more Texan than George, Willie and Asleep at the Wheel doin' a Bob Wills classic," frontman Ray Benson says of that song.
It's not Nelson's only appearance on the track list of Half a Hundred Years, either: The country legend also makes an appearance on another song, "Marie," as well as "The Road Will Hold Me Tonight," a collaboration with Emmylou Harris.
The Texan-born greats featured on the album don't stop there. Lyle Lovett appears on a song called "There You Go Again," and Lee Ann Womack lends her voice to "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read."
Before Half a Hundred Years arrives in full, fans can hear the title track, which is one of the few songs on the album that doesn't feature a guest artist. However, according to Benson, the song was inspired by a conversation with a fellow country musician.
"I went over to the ACL stage to see Jamey Johnson. I told him, 'Ya know, it's Asleep at the Wheel's 50th anniversary!' He looked at me and said, 'That's half a hundred years!'" Benson recounts, saying that Johnson's reply inspired him to get to work writing the track. "I was trying to get across the sacrifices you have to make in 50 years on the road and the other positive side of it. The great experiences, the places I've been, and all the amazing people I've had the opportunity to meet and play music with."
Over his five decades in music, Benson has experienced both the high points and low points of life as a touring musician focusing on the particular, and increasingly rare, stylings of Western Swing.
"The only reason that I kept going is that every week a fan would come up and be so appreciative, saying, 'Don't ever stop. You're the only band that goes out on the road and does this old, cool music,'" Benson continues. "That's when I knew it was more than just a living -- that I was blessed with caretaking a form of music."
Asleep at the Wheel, Half a Hundred Years Tracklist:
1. "Half a Hundred Years"
2. "It’s the Same Old South" feat. Chris O’Connell
3. "I Do What I Must" feat. Leroy Preston
4. "There You Go Again" feat. Lyle Lovett
5. "My Little Baby" feat. Chris O’Connell
6. "Paycheck to Paycheck" feat. Leroy Preston
7. "Word to the Wise" feat. Bill Kirchen
8. "That’s How I Remember It" feat. Chris O’Connell
9. "The Photo" feat. Leroy Preston
10. "I Love You Most of All (When You’re Not Here)" feat. Lucky Oceans
11. "The Wheel Boogie"
12. "Take Me Back to Tulsa" feat. George Strait and Willie Nelson
13. "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read" feat. Lee Ann Womack
14. "Bump Bounce Boogie" feat. Chris O'Connell, Elizabeth McQueen and Katie Shore
15. "Miles And Miles of Texas"
16. "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" feat. Leroy Preston, Johnny Nicholas and Ray Benson
17. "Marie" feat. Willie Nelson
18. "Spanish Two Step" feat. Johnny Gimble and Jesse Ashlock
19. "The Road Will Hold Me Tonight" feat. Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson