Wheelin' and Dean' is the group's fourth alubm and their best yet. The group performs with a vitality and energy rarely found in today's pop artists, and the clean, crisp production of Tommy Allsup allows this to shine through. Only two of the tracks on the 1.p. are original, however they show an excellent ability to write in the western swing style, and a fantastic absorbtion of the swing feeling. Leroy Preston, vocalist and rhythm guitarist, co-wrote the exuberant "Shout Wa Hey", and was entirely responsible for "If I Can't Love You". Both of those tunes sound as if they could have been part of the Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys repertoire.
Chris O'Connell, a vocalist and rhythm guitarist can put to shame the vast number of female country and country-rock vocalists. She can hold her own with the top line vocalists in the country genre, from Emmylou Harris to Dolly Pardon. For proof, check her work on "The Trouble With Lovin' Today".
One of the striking features of this 1.p. is the use of horns as embellishment on many of the album's cuts. "Shout Wa Hey" and "Route 66" feature fine use of the horns which give the band a rich, full sound and emphasize the jazz/ swing element of the group's music. The horns also serve to emphasize melody lines on the cuts where they're used.
In live performance, the group plays blues, fiddle tunes, a little rockabilly and some more jazzy tunes. However Wheelin' and Dealin' does show a bit of the group's diversity with the inclusion of Doug and Rusty Kershaw's "Cajun Stripper" and the rockabilly flavored "If I Can't Love You".
Recently, I spoke with Leroy Preston who, when asked if one of the group's intentions was to educate people about western swing and associated musical forms replied, "We like to do that.- If western swing again becomes the rage, Asleep at the Wheel will take a large portion of the credit.
Incidentally, the group's live performances are incredible and attendance at one of their gigs is highly recommended.