Asleep At The Wheel is indeed taking some New Routes on its album the same name, which comes out Sept. 14 -- and that's primarily because another new lineup, with founder Ray Benson adding five fresh members along with veteran drummer David Sanger and fiddler Dennis Ludiker.
The set's rendition "Seven Nights to Rock," popularized by country boogie pianist Moon Mullican, premieres exclusively below.
"This is a new Asleep at the Wheel," Benson tells Billboard. "I liken it to Mick Fleetwood; Every so ten he puts a new Fleetwood Mac together. Same with Asleep at the Wheel -- new folks with new ideas, all within the realm what Asleep at the Wheel is. 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 stuff with a band that can handle it, get the greatest players and great singers to explore the whole analogy American roots music."
Key among Benson's new cohorts in the band now is singer-fiddler Katie Shore, who wrote three New Route's 11 tracks -- including "Call It a Day Tonight," the first song Benson has co-written with a band member in some three decades. Shore says Asleep at the Wheel "is one my favorite bands. I grew up listening to them all my life." Benson, meanwhile, was pleased to discover Shore was a triple threat to add to the lineup. "I knew she could sing great and thought, 'Cool, she plays fiddle. That's even better.' And then I found out she was a writer, so co-writing was a lot fun. We'll probably do more that."
The new Asleep proved prolific; Benson says the group recorded 23 songs for New Routes, with the final track list mixing standards ("Jack I'm Mellow"), covers Johnny Cash's "Big River," Guy Clark's "Dublin Blues" and Paolo Nutini's "Pencil Full Lead," and "Willie Got There First," which was penned by and also features Seth and Scott Avett. "Seven Nights to Rock," meanwhile, has been in Asleep's repertoire since Benson started the band back in 1970. "I learned it from Moon Mullican," he says. "We just had a good idea for how to do it. I knew I could sing it, and then having the three-part singing really gave it our own stamp. When we play it, the dancers really hit the floor."
Asleep is giving those fans a chance to do just that throughout the summer and the fall -- including the ACL Music Festival during October -- with more dates booked into 2019. Benson figures that with so many songs recorded Asleep is halfway to its next album, though New Routes will be the group's focus for a while. "We're gonna tour our asses f," he says. "We're doing that right now and then we'll see how (the album) does and then see what next year brings. There's a lot new energy in the band right now, so it feels like we're starting another really good new era for Asleep at the Wheel."