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Asleep At The Wheel @ Boulder Theater | 7/24

Can a wheel reinvent itself while it’s still rolling?

Sounds like an impossible task -- but you never want to say “impossible” to Asleep at the Wheel, the famed western-swing, boogie, and roots-music outfit that’s, amazingly, still on the upswing. That’s saying something, too, considering the group’s been around for nearly 40 years, turning out an incredible 25+ albums while playing an unrelenting schedule of one-nighters that would make a vaudevillian dizzy.

“In terms of how many people we played for, what we accomplished, and how much money we made – well, we didn’t make any money – this year was absolutely our best year ever,” says Wheel founder and front man Ray Benson with a chuckle.

And even as the Wheel rolled on, the reinvention had begun. You could see and hear it in their live shows, where new vocalist Elizabeth McQueen invited comparison with the classic female vocalists of the band’s earlier era, and fiddler-singer Jason Roberts gave the band a second male lead voice to complement Benson’s immediately identifiable baritone.

These days, the reinvented Wheel is also rolling down a couple of new avenues. One involves to the critically acclaimed musical play, A Ride With Bob, which stars Benson as himself -- encountering the ghost of Bob Wills on a tour bus – Roberts as the young Wills, and McQueen as Minnie Pearl and other famed entertainment figures, with the rest of the band members featured as well. Originally designed as a one-off celebration of Wills’ 100th birthday in ’05, A Ride With Bob quickly took on a life of its own and, notes Benson, “it’s absolutely a part of what we do now.” Another success has been the adaptation of the Wheel’s repertoire for pops symphony. Performances with Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth & Amarillo symphonies have drawn record crowds.

The Wheel’s new look is also spotlighted in several new discs – the first called, appropriately enough, Reinventing the Wheel. The 12-cut celebration of American – particularly Southwestern – music features guest appearances by gospel’s Blind Boys of Alabama (with a splendid reworking of the old Wills tune “The Devil Ain’t Lazy”) and banjoist Rolf Sieker, along with lead vocals by McQueen and Roberts as well as Benson, whose voice has been synonymous with Asleep at the Wheel for decades.

The second is 2009’s Willie and the Wheel; a collaboration with Willie Nelson that was originally envisioned by famed producer Jerry Wexler in the 1970s. Unfortunately before they had a chance to cut it, Nelson had left Atlantic Records. But over the ensuing decades Wexler kept the idea alive and even gave Ray his entire collection of western swing vinyl that included his notes on song choices and treatments. In late 2007 the idea was revived and Jerry and Ray reconnected by phone. Always the producer with a vision, Jerry was involved in every way. He insisted that some of the tracks should include horns as well as a return to traditional fiddles and lap steel guitar associated with western swing. As the sessions concluded and Willie finished his vocals the tracks were sent to Jerry. “To my delight and relief,” says Ray, “he loved them.” In fact, Wexler heard most of the finished tracks prior to his passing in August 2008. "Jerry wanted us to do this album and I'm glad we got to do it for him, “says Willie Nelson. “And that he heard it before he passed on."

The success of the Willie and the Wheel album release was quickly followed up by a tour and even a taping of the 35th anniversary of Austin City Limits for PBS (for broadcast in Fall of 2009), a fitting double-bill as Willie had taped the pilot and Asleep at the Wheel appeared in the very first regular episode of the legendary live music television program.

And now in contemplating the 40th anniversary of Asleep at the Wheel in 2010, Ray remains focused on the original concept. “I carried the load for many, many years, but I’ve always just wanted to have a band, as opposed to Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel,” Benson explains. “That’s what we had in the ‘70s – a band, a revue kind of deal, which was the whole concept. But trying to replace a Chris O’Connell was very difficult. And then Elizabeth walks up, and boom – here’s my girl singer. And then I kept pushing Jason, both through the play and through the band, saying, `Man, you’ve got talent. You can sing. You’ve got the golden ear – just apply it to your singing and songwriting.’”


Roberts, who’s been the Wheel’s full-time fiddler since early ’96, welcomed the opportunity to be a part of the revamped, revue-style Wheel. “I think everybody got a chance to put their two cents in, and bring to the table what they had, ” he adds. “God bless Ray Benson for allowing us to do that..”

Adds McQueen, “One of the things about Asleep at the Wheel is that they always have great musicians. That’s what they’re known for. So for them to ask me to join and then to keep me in the band, and to let me step out a little more and stand in the shoes of Chris O’Connell and Maryann Price, who were amazing singers – that’s an incredible honor. It’s above and beyond my greatest expectations.”

So, whether your next encounter with Asleep at the Wheel is at a dance or concert, or backing up Willie Nelson via the new disc, or at a live production of A Ride with Bob, you’ll be witnessing something very special -- a band that’s not only been entertaining audiences with its own genre-busting music for four decades, but also a group that’s never been afraid to try something new -- including a reinvention, inspired by the past, that rolls joyously toward a long and shining future.

More Info / Buy Tickets

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Date/Time: July 24, 2011, 8:00 pm

Audience: All Ages

Seating: All Seated Reserved/GA

Ticket Availability: Yes

General Admission: $32.00

Reserved Tickets: $37.50

Gold Circle: $48.50

7 Walkers release self-titled debut today!

7 Walkers, the new project featuring famed drummer and Grateful Dead co-founder Bill Kreutzmann, guitar master Papa Mali, legendary New Orleans bass man George Porter Jr. (The Meters, Funky Meters) and multi-instrumentalist Matt Hubbard (Willie Nelson, Fastball), today release their self-titled debut. With nearly all of its songs co-penned by Papa Mali and longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, early reviews on 7 Walkers have been incredible.

The highly anticipated release features a batch of brand-new originals, a guest performance by Willie Nelson on “King Cotton Blues,” and a few smokin’ instrumentals. A self-proclaimed “open love letter” to the city of New Orleans, the end result is a fiery and funky collection of tunes that quite brilliantly capture a unique collaboration between these very different musical shamans.

For both Kreutzmann and Papa Mali, 7 Walkers—whose name is borrowed from one of the band’s songs—is something of a dream come true. Kreutzmann has New Orleans in his DNA, literally—his mother was born there—and he’s always been partial to the city’s music. “I have a real feeling for that music and I get along with the folks down there really well,” he says.

The Crescent City, of course, also impacted native Louisianan Papa Mali incalculably. Although he grew up in Shreveport, he made frequent trips during his youth to New Orleans, where his mom’s family was from. “I bought my clothes and my records there, saw lots of live music there and began to forge my own personal style and musical identity in New Orleans,” he says.

The songwriting partnership between Robert Hunter and Papa Mali created undeniable chemistry. Their collaboration, says Kreutzmann, “reminds me very much, and not because of the personalities or anything, of Garcia and Hunter working together, in that really tight fashion. Those words, if you just read them, they’re fun stories, but when you put the music to them it sends them over the top."

He’ll get no argument from Robert Hunter. “7 Walkers hit the ball so far out of the park it’s still sailing,” he says about the album. “It might actually have gone into orbit. I’m very proud to be part of the project. This album is sheer joy from first note to last.”

The complete list of 7 Walkers tour dates is as follows:

Thursday, December 9 Mohegan Sun Casino Uncasville CT

Friday, December 10 Narrow Center for the Arts Fall River MA

Saturday, December 11 Higher Ground South Burlington VT

Sunday, December 12 Tupelo Music Hall Londonderry NH

Tuesday, December 14 Port City Music Hall Portland ME

Thursday, December 16 Stage One Fairfield CT

Friday, December 17 Boulton Center for the Arts Bay Shore NY

Saturday, December 18 World Cafe Live Philadelphia PA

Sunday, December 19 City Winery New York NY

Tuesday, December 28 Tupelo Music Hall White River Junction VT

Wednesday, December 29 Pearl Street Northampton MA

Thursday, December 30 Westcott Theater Syracuse NY

Friday, December 31 The Silo Reading PA

Leon Russell, Fri Sept. 17 @ Boulder Theater

The ultimate rock & roll session man, Leon Russell's long and storied career includes collaborations with a virtual who's who of music icons spanning from Jerry Lee Lewis to Phil Spector to the Rolling Stones. A similar eclecticism and scope also surfaced in his solo work, which couched his charmingly gravelly voice in a rustic yet rich swamp pop fusion of country, blues and gospel. Born Claude Russell Bridges on April 2, 1942, in Lawton, OK, he began studying classical piano at age three, a decade later adopting the trumpet and forming his first band. At 14, Russell lied about his age to land a gig at a Tulsa nightclub, playing behind Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks before touring in support of Jerry Lee Lewis. Two years later, he settled in Los Angeles, studying guitar under the legendary James Burton and appearing on sessions with Dorsey Burnette and Glen Campbell. As a member of Spector's renowned studio group, Russell played on many of the finest pop singles of the 1960s, also arranging classics like Ike & Tina Turner's monumental "River Deep, Mountain High"; other hits bearing his input include the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," Gary Lewis & the Playboys' "This Diamond Ring," and Herb Alpert's "A Taste of Honey."
In 1967, Russell built his own recording studio, teaming with guitarist Marc Benno to record the acclaimed Look Inside the Asylum Choir LP. While touring with Delaney & Bonnie, he scored his first songwriting hit with Joe Cocker's reading of "Delta Lady," and in 1970, upon founding his own Shelter Records imprint, he also organized Cocker's legendary Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. After the subsequent tour film earned Russell his first real mainstream notoriety, he issued a self-titled solo LP, and in 1971 appeared at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh following sessions for B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan. After touring with the Rolling Stones, Russell increasingly focused on his solo career, reaching the number two spot with 1972's Carny and scoring his first pop hit with the single "Tight Rope." While the success of 1973's three-LP set Leon Live further established his reputation as a top concert draw, response to the country inspired studio effort Hank Wilson's Back was considerably more lukewarm, as was the reception afforded to 1974's Stop All That Jazz. 1975's Will O' the Wisp, however, restored his commercial luster, thanks in large part to the lovely single "Lady Blue."
In June of 1975, Russell married singer Mary McCreary; the following year the couple collaborated on The Wedding Album, issued through his newly formed Paradise Records label. Also in 1976, the Russell-penned "This Masquerade" earned a Grammy Award for singer George Benson. He and McCreary reunited for 1977's Make Love to the Music, and upon completing the solo Americana, Russell teamed with Willie Nelson for 1979's Willie & Leon. He then spent the next two years touring with his bluegrass band, the New Grass Revival, issuing a live LP in 1981; although Paradise shut down later that year, the label was reactivated for 1984's Hank Wilson, Vol. II and Solid State. Russell spent the remainder of the decade largely outside of music and did not resurface until issuing the Bruce Hornsby produced Anything Can Happen in 1992. Hank Wilson, Vol. 3: Legend in My Time. Face in the Crowd appeared a year later.
21+ / Gold Circle: $51.00 / Reserved: $41.00 / GA: $30.00
On sale July 30
Tickets will be on sale through the Boulder Theater box office
Internet 24-7 at www.bouldertheater.com
Phone: During box office hours 303-786-7030

Lucky Peterson interprets Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Ray LaMontagne, Robert Johnson & Blind Willie McTell

Lucky Peterson was discovered by blues legend Willie Dixon when he was three years old, released his first record at five and soon after appeared on The Tonight Show. Trained by keyboardists Bill Doggett and Jimmy Smith, Peterson went on to play behind Little Milton, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Kenny Neal. On return from the “Young Blues Giants” tour of Europe, he signed first with Alligator, then Verve, Blue Thumb and Birdology/Dreyfus, where he recorded what Amazon.com called “his finest album,” Black Midnight Sun, in 2003. The New Yorker called him “a master of the guitar, organ and microphone.”

But Lucky’s journey was not a smooth one, and Peterson spent the next few years in transition, working to free himself of drug troubles that had affected his health, family life and professional life. He spent time in treatment, making one-off records for small European labels, but never a proper follow-up to Black Midnight Sun.

But you can always turn around. These words took on special meaning for the 45-year-old Peterson, which is why the first album since his rehabilitation is titled You Can Always Turn Around. It is an uplifting collection of songs that speak of struggles and salvation, using the gritty clarity of acoustic roots-blues (with modern touches) as its main musical vehicle.

The album, scheduled for September 28, 2010 release on Dreyfus Records, was made in the Catskills with master Woodstock musicians Larry Campbell, guitar (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm); Scott Petito, bass (The Fugs, Mercury Rev, Rick Danko Band); and Gary Burke, drums (Joe Jackson, Shania Twain). Peterson as usual plays a mix of instruments: duolian resonator, piano and acoustic and electric guitars. Also prevalent is the acoustic piano on which Lucky sounds like a bluesy Elton John. “He’s something of a genius — his piano playing reminds me of Aretha Franklin,” says drummer Burke, who has played behind Franklin on the road.

But it’s Peterson’s vocal instrument that some might find most arresting. Peterson wraps his voice around an eclectic selection of blues-based materials including songs by original Delta bluesmen Robert Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Willie McTell up through the music of today’s top songwriters including Lucinda Williams, Tom Waits and Ray LaMontagne. The album closes with a version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Think.”

“This album is very different for me — it’s more from the heart,” says Peterson.  “The songs were picked by (co-producer) Doug Yoel, and he knew my heart. I feel like all these songs were for me.”  The album would be the last co-production of Francis Dreyfus, who passed away on June 24, before the album’s release.

One standout on the album is the civil-rights era anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” written by Billy Taylor and popularized by Nina Simone. The new recording introduces Tamara Peterson, Lucky’s wife, a worthy blues singer in her own right. The chemistry between Lucky and Tamara on that session was so exciting that Larry Campbell was prompted to invite the pair to appear with the Levon Helm Band at the Midnight Ramble concert the following night.

Peterson creates something brand new on “Trampled Rose,” turning a wordless hook into a seductive Arabian-flavored line. The band responded to and fed the creativity of the newly awakened Lucky Peterson, and the results are truly special.

Peterson continues to tour, doing dates big and small. This new album should increase awareness of and demand for this one-of-a-kind musician.

And when off the road, he’ll be at his church in Dallas, Texas with his family, holding on, and playing for one very lucky congregation.

TRACK LIST:

1. I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom (Robert Johnson)
2. I'm New Here (Bill Callahan)
3. Statesboro Blues (Blind Willie McTell)
4. Trouble (Ray LaMontagne)
5. Trampled Rose (Tom Waits / Kathleen Brennan)
6. Atonement (Lucinda Williams)
7. Why Are People Like That (Bobby Charles)
8. Four Little Boys (James Peterson / Judge Peterson)
9. Death Don't Have No Mercy (Rev. Gary Davis)
10. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas)
11. Think (Curtis Mayfield)