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Review: Concerts in the Garden: Asleep at the Wheel | Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra | Fort Worth Botanic Garden

Swing High

Western Swing greats Asleep at the Wheel made for a rollicking time at Fort Worth Symphony's Concerts in the Garden.

published Sunday, June 23, 2019

Photo: Courtesy Asleep at the Wheel
Asleep at the Wheel


Fort Worth — The summer solstice brought a lazy heat and an easy swing to Concerts in the Garden sponsored by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. The FWSO, conducted by Michael Krajewski, continued to surprise and delight with Asleep at the Wheel on Friday evening.

Fun Fact: Fort Worth isn’t just livestock, and Van Cliburn, and natural gas, and Ornette Coleman, and world-class museums, and a vibrant downtown; nor is it only just west of Big D. Our Fort still bears the 90-year-old imprint of Western Swing, one of America’s great hybrid musical styles. Surrounded from all compass points by the traditions of The Light Crust Dough Boys from Saginaw, Hank Thompson from Waco, Milton Brown from Stephenville, and Spade Cooley from north of the Red River; The King of Western Swing, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys hung his hat in Panther City, Tulsa, and their environs throughout the 1930s. Keeping the King’s swing alive are the still vital Asleep at the Wheel led by Ray Benson on electric guitar and lead vocal.

Basically a country combo playing jazz, Asleep at the Wheel lays has the standard swinging rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums. Add mandolin, guitar, pedal steel, two fiddles and you have music as north Texan as the Chisholm trail. The kind of band whose any one member could hold attention all night just on sheer talent. Put them together with a fantastic symphony and it became something truly special.

Having earned six Grammys, Asleep at the Wheel has a new energy with the additions of Katie Shore from Fort Worth on versatile fiddle and sassy Diana Krall-like vocals, and Dennis Ludiker on lightning fast fiddle and mandolin. They joined veteran Eddie Rivers on pedal steel guitar whose magician light touch served sweeping arcs of round tones, chirps and blues riffs. Once eliciting spontaneous applause by the gentlest clever turn.

The set list read like standards of the style:

  • “Cherokee Maiden” by Bob Wills that referenced Benny Goodman’s “Swing, Swing, Swing”
  • “I’m an Old Cow Hand” with cinematic cowboy soundscape complete with wood block clip-clop.
  • “Don’t Fence Me In,” during which folk began two-stepping.
  • “San Antonio Rose” to which the audience cheered like Nolan Ryan had struck out yet another one
  • “Route 66,” that had a new hot lick every 12.6 seconds.
  • “Choo Choo Cha’ Boogie” by Louis Jordan that quoted Thelonious Monk’s “Straight No Chaser”
  • “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” and the ballad “Faded Love” by Patsy Cline. The lazy latter of which stopped the show with an orange-pink sunset, graciously supplied by the FWSO.
  • “Dublin Blues” by Guy Clark, “Big River” by Johnny Cash, and “Tiger Rag” by Louis Armstrong that sounded like “The Cotton-Eyed Joe” on moonshine.

An unexpected treat was the Hill Country reimagining of the theme “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. A finger-picked twang and a dry fiddle harmony emigrated the 19th century Viennese tune to central Texas before receiving its standard orchestral bombast.

Benson’s incredibly low voice and Shore’s charming style held western swing’s singing heroes close to the heart by laying tribute to the loose jazz twang of Willie Nelson, Kitty Wells, Wills, and Cline.

Conductor Michael Krajewski is owed a doff of the brim from the sprinkling of straw Stetsons in the crowd by keeping the night’s tight groove swinging in the orchestra like Nelson Riddle.

Dancing, singing and cheering to a pedal steel, in boots under the stars, it’s not often Fort Worth gets to celebrate her own inimitable style.



» Concerts in the Garden runs through July 7 at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and concerts begin at 8:15. Below is ticketing info, and descriptions for the remaining concerts in the series.





Lawn tickets are $25. Children ages 10 and younger are admitted free on the lawn with a ticket if accompanied by an adult. Table seats are $37-67. Children ages 10 and younger receive half-price tickets in select table section. Festival passes are available to FWSO subscribers and donors. Purchase tickets online at or by calling the FWSO ticket office at 817-655-6000. 

The FWSO is now offering festival passes for Concerts In The Garden, which allow patrons to attend multiple performances at a discount. Two package sizes are available: A full festival pass, which includes all 14 programs or a mini-pass, which includes the patron’s selection of 5 programs. Festival pass-holders enjoy numerous benefits, including Savings of up to 15percent on concert tickets, early access to tickets and parking passes, priority entrance lines at the garden, and discounts on FWSO apparel at the gift shop.


Remaining Concerts in the Garden events:


Sunday, June 23| A Tribute to Elvis with Kraig Parker*

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Come hear Kraig Parker and his Royal Tribute Band pay homage to the one and only Elvis Presley. Parker has toured with Presley’s original vocal groups The Jordanaires, The Stamps Quartet, and The Sweet Inspirations, and critics have called this show “as close as it gets” to the real thing. Long live the King!

*The orchestra will not perform on this concert

Friday, June 28 | The Music of Pink Floyd

Brent Havens, conductor

Randy Jackson, vocalist

With psychedelic tunes and philosophical lyrics, Pink Floyd exploded onto the scene in the late ‘60s and became one of the most successful bands in the history of popular music. The FWSO and a full rock band bring back some of the band’s classics from iconic albums like Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Animals,  and much more.


Saturday, June 29 | The Music of Queen

Brent Havens, conductor

Brody Dolyniuk, vocalist

“We will, we will rock you” when The Music of Queen returns to Concerts In The Garden. Experience your favorite hits by the classic rock band including “I Want It All,” “You’re My Best Friend,” “We are the Champions,” and the chart-topping “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the beautiful setting of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.


Sunday, June 30 | ABBAcadabra*

“Mama Mia! Here we go again!” It’s time, once again, to break out your bell bottoms and dust off your disco ball, because the music of ABBA is returning to the Garden with timeless favorites like “Super Trooper,” “Dancing Queen,” and “S.O.S.” You won’t be able to sit still when ABBACADABRA performs the ultimate ABBA tribute!

*The orchestra will not perform on this concert 


Wednesday – Thursday, July 3-4| Old-Fashioned Family Fireworks Picnic

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor

Corrie Donovan, soprano

Mark your calendar for another round of the best fireworks in town. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra honors our Independence Day with a brilliant display of musical patriotism. Pack a picnic, bring the whole family, and join our annual all-American July 4th celebration at the Old-Fashioned Family Fireworks Picnic.


Friday – Sunday, July 5-7 | Star Wars & Beyond: A Sci-Fi Laser Light Spectacular

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor

The force is strong in Fort Worth! And this year we will close out the 2019 Concerts In The Garden summer music festival with three performances of Star Wars & Beyond: A Sci-Fi Laser Light Spectacular led by Miguel Harth-Bedoya in his final CITG appearances! On the first half, behold favorite melodies from the realm of Sci-Fi films and television. Then after the sun sets, fire up your light saber and enjoy some out-of-this-world music from the Star Wars franchise, enhanced by a stunning laser light show. Thanks For Reading

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Swing High
Western Swing greats Asleep at the Wheel made for a rollicking time at Fort Worth Symphony's Concerts in the Garden.
by Rob Laney

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