Forty years leading Asleep at the Wheel doesn't mean there's not life beyond Western swing for Ray Benson. A Little Piece finds the towering bandleader all over the musical map but always with a hint of country. Moving beyond the jazzy strains of his first solo work, 2003's Beyond Time, he's a crooner, a folk singer, a rocker. What he's not this time out is an ace songwriter. With cloying themes and lyrics forced into melodies a tad too complex, no writer should ever admit, "I ain't got nothing to say" as he does on "Give Me Some Peace." The two sweet spots thus come from other writers. Waylon Jennings/Gary Nicholson composed "It Ain't You," featuring Willie Nelson in a duet about aging that's exceptionally stark and affecting, while Randy Newman's "Marie" – just a guitar and Benson's voice – chills to the bone.
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