Asleep At The Wheel Ride With Bob

Bob Wills may not have been a name on anyone's lips until country roots came back into vogue with the rise of No Depression country, but this is the second Bob Wills tribute album in as many years, and there are a couple of obvious parallels to its predecessor. Both are projects spearheaded by a band (the earlier tribute, The Majesty of Bob Wills, was by Kelly Hogan's recent backing band the Pine Valley Cosmonauts) with a host of guest vocalists. But it would seem that Western swing veterans Asleep at the Wheel did their homework when putting this package together so as to avoid redundancy as much as possible. Fortunately, Wills had a vast enough repertoire that only a handful of songs appear on both albums. And very different ends of the country spectrum are represented on each. The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, outsiders in their own right, recruited left fielders like Robbie Fulks, Edith Frost and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, while Asleep At The Wheel have enlisted such Nashville standbys as Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and the Dixie Chicks. Not surprisingly, then, Ride With Bob is the slicker and more predictable (actually, given Wills' wild sense of fun, less unpredictable is probably more apt) of the two. But it has by far the better liner notes, so if you have to choose, those are the criteria. Either way, Ride With Bob is a suitably fun and musically sophisticated introduction to the legendary King of Western swing that evokes the era well, but something a little more rough and tumble would have made the ride that much more exciting. (Universal)