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Jon Wayne were a cow/punk parody act, who came across as a bunch of unreformed hard-drinkin' redneck truckers, playing a set of 'couldn't care less'-sounding numbers whilst apparently under the influence.

They certainly produce an appealingly ramshackle 'signature' sound as a result, whose primary characteristic is Wayne's dry vocal delivery, that sounds like he's reciting his lyrics via a trucker's CB radio, his vocals sounding sort of 'metallic' / mechanical throughout the album.

I can't remember now how I came to acquire the band's classic track "Texas Funeral" (5 stars), but it's what prompted me to check out this their album of the same name (apparently, movie director Quentin Tarantino wanted to use the title track in his film Pulp Fiction, but as he couldn't contact Wayne to get permission, that never happened. That's a pity, as the track deserved wider exposure).

Being a parody act, the band's material is of the kind - 'so bad that's it's good' - and in fact it does take considerable technical skill to pull this kind of thing off (the UK's Bonzo Dog Band from the 1960's produced some very clever pastiches using the same approach), but unfortunately - whilst the album's lyrics are engaging - the melodic side of the songwriting equation just isn't up to par, resulting in a lot of misfires that tend to feature an excess of prominent ham-fisted percussion.

Having now checked out the rest of the album, it's apparent that Jon Wayne were something of a 'one-hit-wonder that never was', as "Texas Funeral" stands head and shoulders above the rest of the material here, such that the album amounts to one notable track accompanied by a dozen second-rate numbers that emulate the sound of that track, but then fail to match it in every other respect.

So it seems that Jon Wayne were just another in a long line of novelty acts that had one great idea - one that got milked to album-length - that was never successfully repeated. "Texas Funeral" though, is certainly worth checking out on YouTube.

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Posted: Friday 10th May 2019 9:05 AM

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album review
Asleep at the Wheel have been around since the 1970's, and there have been a great many musicians pass through the band's ranks since then.

The band's musical style can be mainly characterised as 'Western Swing', and their material has a distinctly 'retro' feel, sounding for all the world as though it originated from the 1930's / 40's, though in fact most of the tracks on The Wheel are band originals, penned by rhythm guitarist LeRoy Preston.

The material is fairly eclectic and often reminiscent of other artists, the album opener for example being a smooth-sounding lounge/jazz instrumental that begins with some fluid guitar in the George Benson style, before being spiced-up with brass and piano.

That's then followed by a jazzy blues with a female lead vocal, that sounds part Bessie Smith, part k.d.lang. Beyond that, the rest of the side features more slightly jazzy-flavoured numbers in the style of Bill Hicks & His Hot Licks.

Whereas Side One leans towards jazzy blues, Side Two of the album is more akin to traditional country, opening with a fiddle-based bluegrass-y instrumental, followed by a Patsy Cline-like country/blues ... and so it continues.

The best track in my view is a Gospel/country number on Side Two called "Somebody Stole His Body" (4½ stars), which sounds like it could be an olde worlde / traditional negro spiritual from say a hundred years ago, but nope - it was in fact penned by Leroy Preston in 1977 - it's a jaunty little number, check it out on YouTube.

Whilst Asleep at the Wheel are very good at recreating the sounds of a bygone era, all in all I prefer the approach adopted by music-revivalists Leon Redbone (for American material) and Peter Skellern (for the UK), as - although the material here is good - it doesn't match the best the 1930's / 1940's had to offer.

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Posted: Friday 17th May 2019 7:21 PM

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