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News:
Texas Icon's Birthday Bash Kicks Off SXSW
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

AUSTIN, Texas -- Ray Benson called it "the best brithday I've ever had." And there was no reason to doubt him.

The Asleep at the Wheel leader and Texas music icon celebrated his 59th birthday on Tuesday, March 16 -- a full evening before the official opening of this year's South By Southwest Music + Media conference -- with a pleasantly exhausting all-star bash at La Zona Rosa that doubled as a fundraiser for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAMM). Backed by present and past members of Asleep at the Wheel, including alumni keyboardist Floyd Domino, Benson was feted by a series of guest throughout the night, including Raul Malo on Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces," Ray Prices "My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You" and the Everly Brothers "All I Have to Do is Dream," Radney Foster on Bob Wills' "Miles and Miles of Texas" and his own "Just Call Me Lonesome," and J.D. Souther for a three-song set that included "Route 66," "Journey Down the Nile" and the Eagles' "Heartache Tonight." Fort Worth songwriter Gary Nicholson joined the party for a rendition of "Flyin' & Fallin'," which he co-wrote with the late Stephen Bruton for the "Crazy Heart" soundtrack, the George Strait hit "Same Kind of Crazy as Me" and "Linda Lou."

Dale Watson and members of Band of Heathens and Reckless Kelly also paid homage to Benson, as did Carolyn Wonderland, the blues belter from Benson's Bismeaux Records label. The night took a Motown turn when Austin R&B singer Tim Curry and the Groove Line Horns joined Benson and company for Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and the Temptations' "My Girl," as well as a show-closing rendition of Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene." Benson also did just fine on his own, too, with performances of "House of Blue Lights," "Hesitation Blues" and other favorites from his canon of Texas swing.

Benson only left the stage once. to make room for a four-song outing by the Texas Tornados, reactivated after a decade away with a new album, "Esta Bueno!" and several planned SXSW performances. With new frontman Shawn Sahm, who was also celebrating his birthday, dedicating the set to his late father, Doug Sahm, and Freddy Fender, the Tornados started strong with "(Is Anybody Going to) San Antone," then showcased accordionist Flaco Jimenez on "Open Up Your Heart" and keyboardist Augie Meyers (who's awaiting a kidney transplant) on his signature "(Hey Baby) Que Paso?" before closing with a rip-roaring "She's About a Mover" led by the younger Sahm.

Earlier on Tuesday evening the music publishing company Broadcast Music International (BMI) held its annual Howdy, Texas! soiree with an eclectic representation of its clients, including the polished Los Angeles pop-rock quartet Chasing Kings, the harp- (yes, harp) driven sounds of Rey Fresco and singer-songwriter Caitlin Rose. Over at the IFC cable network's Crossroads House, meanwhile, Shadow Shadow Shade, an as-yet unsigned Los Angeles rock band, taped a performance that will stream on the channel's web site.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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