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Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson Criticizes Modern Country Music

Ray Benson thoughts on modern country music
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Asleep at the Wheel co-founder Ray Benson has seen plenty in the country music industry. Since releasing the band’s first album, Comin’ Right at Ya, in 1973, the singer and his group have weathered several trends in country music, but he admits that he isn’t a fan of where the genre is currently heading.

“You can relate to picking up girls, drinking beer and hot pants. The thematic stuff is what bothers me,” Benson tells the Lowell Sun. “I don’t like Luke Bryan and those guys because there’s no originality; every song follows pretty much the same chord progression. That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself — Hank Williams used the same four chords — but there’s no melodic integrity, and the words are just silly.

“You listen to Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline or Willie Nelson, [and] none sounds like the other,” he continues. “It’s individuality at its best. Patsy Cline was a pop singer but with country sensibilities.”

Benson, whose last Top 40 single was “House of Blue Lights” in 1987, maintains that he still enjoys plenty of artists in the country genre, but not what is climbing the charts.

“Let me qualify this by saying there’s great country music made today by lots of people,” Benson explains, “it’s just not getting on mainstream radio.

“I try not to throw stones too hard, but I am very fortunate of having a legacy of music we’ve created that I can sit back and say I’ve done this with great pride and great success,” he adds. “No, I don’t own a house in the Bahamas and Telluride, but I make a living and have a great time doing it.”

Asleep at the Wheel were recently inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame, along with Loretta Lynn. The Texas-based group will spend much of the remainder of the year on the road; further information is available on the band’s website.

NEXT: Is Traditional Country Music Dead?

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