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Swingin' With Ray

A quintessential American music, Western Swing is the shotgun wedding of big-band swing and hillbilly fiddle music. The King of Western Swing was the great Bob Wills, who, along with His Texas Playboys, took a hatchet to the straitjacket of genre and played whatever he wanted as long as it swung. Bob swung off this mortal coil in 1975, but his replacement was one Ray Benson, the 6-foot, 7-inch leader of Asleep at the Wheel, a gang of supertalented freaks who in 1969 picked up where Wills left off, blending country, jazz, jump blues and boogie-woogie. Benson is a killer guitarist, an accomplished producer (Willie Nelson to Aaron Neville), musicologist, bandleader and all-around character: The last time I saw Ray was at a dinner for medical-marijuana activists. He also has the best baritone in country music. The Philadelphia-born, Texas-based American institution will be yapping tonight at the Grammy Museum, with Scott Goldman, fielding audience queries and performing with a slimmed-down trio of Wheels. Ray's appearance here makes a lot of sense given that Asleep at the Wheel has won an astonishing nine Grammys. The band's latest is It's a Good Day!, a cookin' collab with Playboy alumnus Leon Rausch.
Tue., Aug. 31, 8 p.m., 2010


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