It wouldn’t be ACL Fest without Asleep at the Wheel helping to kick things off at midday every Friday. Bandleader Ray Benson and his seven-piece crew opened with “Miles and Miles of Texas,” and followed “Bob Wills Is Still the King” with several Bob Wills tunes, as expected — but it’s the kind of expectation that helps keep the festival grounded, going on 14 years now.
A nice and novel touch at the end was a medley of the traditional “Red River Valley” into Marshall Tucker’s “This Old Cowboy,” before Benson brought it home with the Wheel staple “Big Balls in Cowtown,” pushing the high and especially low register of his voice at the end.
Afterward, Benson visited the media area, where he talked a bit with Gary Clark Jr. before speaking with us about how he keeps the Wheel’s sets at ACL fresh every year. We also discussed “Comin’ Right At Ya,” Benson’s autobiography issued this month on University of Texas Press.