Asleep At Wheel Swings In Burlington
Asleep At The Wheel
Presented by The Burlington Community Concert Series
Burlington High School, Fogelberg Performing Arts Center
Friday, June 9th
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
Western Swing was alive and well at the Burlington High School on Friday night as Asleep at the Wheel took the stage. From the opening notes of Cherokee Maiden, the near capacity crowd knew they were in for a special night of music.
Led by Ray Benson, who is going into his 48th year of performing, the group focused mainly on their specialty, the music of Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys. Mr. Benson was in fine form, but he wasn’t alone. The eight piece band was an array of solid talent, all of whom made it look easy.
Moving from Miles and Miles of Texas right into the classic Route 66 where Katie Shore got to show us that her amazing talent on the fiddle is matched by her wonderful voice. She was also terrific on I’m An Old Cowhand, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, and I Hear You Talkin’. She and Ray also teamed up for the Johnny Cash classic Big River.
Katie Shore wasn’t the only fiddle player on the stage. She was joined by Dennis Ludiker who was Texas State Fiddle Champion. Dennis also played mandolin (“The biggest little instrument in the world.”). I believe I saw smoke coming from the instruments when Katie and Dennis tore into Tiger Rag. Mr. Ludiker could reign as champ for as long as he wants to. At one point I thought Dave Sanger’s arms were going to fly off as he hit the drums and State of Texas shaped cymbal.
Steel guitarist Eddie Rivers never disappoints. His solo of the classic Teardrop was just beautiful. Eddie also broke out on sax for the onomatopoeic Choo Choo Ch’Boogie. Which also featured Connor Forsyth on keyboard showing us a fine way to play a Steinway.
Ray took time out to remember Guy Clark who passed away in 2016 by singing his beautiful Dublin Blues. It was a touching moment made more so by such a lovely song.
Of course, it would not have been a Texas Playboy night without San Antonio Rose and Faded Love. Eddie Rivers told me whenever he is feeling low he listens to San Antonio Rose. It certainly is great medicine.
Over the years band members have changed, and somehow Ray is always able to recruit new and amazing talent. Old hands Ray, Eddie Rivers, and drummer Dave Sanger have to enjoy having the new energy that Katie Shore, Connor Forsyth, Dennis Ludiker, Josh Hoag (bass), and Jay Reynolds (saxaphone and clarinet) bring to the group. While Dave and Jay sat towards the back of the stage their presence was right in the forefront. These guys are good.
No AATW concert is compete without Ray’s very special version of Hotrod Lincoln complete with sound effects and Benson’s juggling. It is such fun. Years ago a friend and former member of the band told me Ray Benson was born to perform. I think of how true that comment was every time I see him.
The concert closed out with the audience on its feet having a blast. House of Blue Lights, one of my favorites, was followed by an encore that included Big Balls In Cow Town and, fittingly, the old Roy Rogers song Happy Trails To You with the crowd singing along. One final tune was the Texas Playboy’s Theme.
There was no danger of anyone falling asleep at the wheel after this concert. I’m sure toes are still tapping. I know mine are.