Calling Asleep at the Wheel a "western swing" band is like calling a Testarossa a "motorized vehicle." Led by the towering presence of baritone Ray Benson for five decades, the Austin, Texas group has won nine Grammys and released a battery of albums that both honor the music of Bob Wills and push it to its limits. Jump blues, big band jazz, crooner cool, hillbilly jive — it's all life-affirming and frequently hilarious music to a band that, like the Texas Playboys before it, experiments and improvises wildly with the raw material of rhythm and blues and country. For Asleep at the Wheel, the western-swing road goes on forever and the dance party never ends.
Round Up: AATW's latest release, Still the King, makes explicit tribute to Bob Wills by enlisting superstars like Brad Paisley as well as a new generation of roots-swingers like the Avett Brothers and even hometown hero Pokey LaFarge.
Stream "The Girl I Left Behind Me" from Still the King below:
Asleep at the Wheel
8:30 p.m. Friday, May 20. The Old Rock House, 1200 South Seventh Street. $30. 314-588-0505.