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Interview:
Asleep at the Wheel live online, 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Ray Benson contracted Covid-19 early in the pandemic, and he hasn't really let it slow him down.



Since recovering, the Asleep at the Wheel founder has been a presence in the virtual music world, performing and even hosting benefits for causes in his current home town of Austin, Texas. This weekend he's trotting out the full band again socially distanced, of course for an "At Home Dance Live From Star Hill Ranch" show, promising a selection of Western Swing favorites from Asleep's own catalog and others.



Cut the rug or roll it up a good time is certain to be had by all...



Asleep's virtual show will be a self-contained affair that Benson (nee Seifer), 69, hopes will replicate, and facilitate, a swing dance party for those watching. "We said, 'OK, we'll do it outdoors,' and we figured people can dance at home 'cause you can't go out and dance at a dance hall or anywhere. If you're home you can dance with whoever's there, whether it's one person or a group of people you're comfortable with. So we said, 'Let's do it,' then, 'OK, how do you do that?'" (laughs) Luckily we have our own video and audio set-up; Both of my sons are pitching in, so I think it'll be fine."



Benson battled Covid-19 during March and April -- "I lost 35 pounds, which is the silver lining, even though I wasn't really intending to do that" -- and he's become an advocate for measures such as wearing masks and social distancing to combat the pandemic. "It's really disheartening, the way some of the country's reacting. I saw something on TV about people burning masks. What?! We just need more information, and the stop-gap is, yeah, we've got to do all these things you don't want to to -- put a mask on, wash your hands, stay away from people -- until they find out more. That's the only defense we have."



Benson says Asleep had "big plans" this year to celebrate the group's 50th anniversary, including a March concert in Austin with past band members. It was also working on a new album with producer Buddy Miller. "What we decided is that you have to complete the 50th year, so we're saying, 'OK, 2021.' (laughs) Hopefully we'll be able to do the same things we wanted to do in 2020 in 2021."



Asleep's most recent album, "New Routes," came out during 2018 and introduced some new members to the lineup. Benson says he always enjoys the opportunity to show off "a new Asleep at the Wheel. I liken it to Mick Fleetwood; Every so often he puts a new Fleetwood Mac together. Same with Asleep at the Wheel -- new folks with new ideas, all within the realm of what Asleep at the Wheel is. There's a lot of new energy in the band right now, so it feels like we're starting another really good new era."



Regardless of who's in the band, however, Benson says the mission stays the same. " The idea has always been to be an eclectic Americana band before Americana meant what it means now. We just want to do this wide variety of stuff with a band that can handle it, get the greatest players and great singers to explore the whole analogy of American roots music."



Asleep at the Wheel's "At Home Dance Live From Star Hill Ranch" takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 25. Tickets are $15 advance, $25 as of Friday, July 24.day of show, with other packages available. livestream.asleepatthewheel.com.

Web Site: www.livestream.asleepatthewheel.com

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