I started the second weekend of the ACL Festival the same way I’ve started most every one in the past 11 years — listening to a bracing dose of boogie, Western Swing and jazz-laced country, courtesy of festival perennials Asleep at the Wheel.
The Wheel’s multi-faceted melodicism was a great way to start the morning, especially after being bludgeoned by the sonic boom Orwells on the adjacent Honda Stage. It didn’t hurt that the sun punched through the overcast sky just as the Wheel started singing about getting your kicks on “Route 66,” A small but demonstrably enthusiastic crowd bopped and swayed as the band swung through a bevy of Bob Wills covers, a sweetly melancholic take of a vintage Leroy Preston number, “I Wonder” (courtesy of vocalist Elizabeth McQueen), and Wheel staples like “Choo-Choo Ch-Boobie,” “House of Blue Lights” and a fun and frantic version of “Hot Rod Lincoln.”
Preceding the latter song with a lullaby version of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” just underscores this long-lived band’s enduring versatility. Sending their audience out with a medley of “Happy Trails” and Will’s Texas Playboys theme song was at once a farewell and a down payment on another Asleep at the Wheel show at next year’s ACL Fest. I know where I’ll be.