Ray Benson Reviewed
Ray BensonBeyond Time (Audium)
Very few, if any, have served as an ambassador of Texas music better than Ray Benson has. As leader of Asleep at the Wheel, he's kept the flame of Western swing alive all over the world for more than 30 years. Surprisingly, Beyond Time is his first "solo" album. What's not surprising is that Benson, like any Texas artist worth listening to, isn't content sticking to one type of music. There's blues, jazz, folk, Frank Sinatra-style crooning, and of course, Tex-Mex, all of it performed with a lot of style. There's also a number of musical guests adding their own specialty to the mix, and not just the usual suspects either; Jimmie Vaughan and Stanley Jordan add their unique guitar styling to the mix. Both Dolly Parton on the playful "Leave That Cowboy Alone" and Delbert McClinton on the bluesy "Clearing Up to Be Cloudy" lend their voices to the effort, and Flaco Jimenez plays accordion on a border-tinged take of Marty Robbins' "El Paso." Unfortunately, all that firepower doesn't add up like you might expect. Benson wrote 11 of the 12 songs on Beyond Time, and with a couple of exceptions, they miss the mark they aim for. Some of it's due to the limitations of Benson's baritone, which is not as adaptable as he wants it to be. One listen to his duet with Delbert, and you can tell which singer regularly sings the blues. Beyond Time is a nice effort, but Benson has set the bar pretty high with his previous work, and, unfortunately, this just doesn't clear it.