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From Austin clubs to Luck joints, Asleep at the Wheel wins big with videos

Peter Blackstock
Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson with fiddlers Katie Shore and Dennis Ludiker at the 2018 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park. The band recently released two locally-shot videos from its new album "New Routes." [Erika Rich for American-Statesman]

It's not easy standing out from the crowd with new music in the digital age, even for a multiple-Grammy-winning ensemble like Austin's Asleep at the Wheel. But here's one way: Make really great videos that could go viral on social media sites.

In the past week, Asleep at the Wheel has released not one, but two such videos, both from tracks on their terrific new album "New Routes." What the Wheel has often done best during its nearly 50-year history is to put a new spin on old songs, and that's the case here.

"Seven Nights to Rock" was a hit for Moon Mullican in the 1950s, and the band filmed the video for it at Austin hot spots the Continental Club, the White Horse and the Broken Spoke. The footage puts the spotlight on dancers living it up in a town where there is indeed something always happening every night of the week. Check it out:

As lively and entertaining as that one is, though, the video for "Jack I'm Mellow," the leadoff track on the new album, may be even better. The tune, which dates back to a 1930s swing-jazz version by Trixie Smith, recently was revived for use as the theme song of Netflix's sitcom "Disjointed."

It's also ideal for the Wheel, a band that arose during the 1970s cosmic-cowboy heyday when Willie Nelson helped make marijuana an increasingly visible symbol of Austin's counterculture. Naturally, they filmed the video for "Jack I'm Mellow" in the fictional town of Luck, on Willie's ranch just outside Austin. Nelson's cannabis line, Willie's Reserve, gets some primo product placement in the clip.

The video also raises the ante for one of the most distinguishing figures of the "New Routes" album — the rise of fiddler Katie Shore from supporting player to a major presence in the band alongside founder Ray Benson. Her star-turn in the "Jack I'm Mellow" showcases her singing, her musicianship and her natural charisma onscreen. A star is born? You be the judge: