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Sound and the Fury


a week on the scene

Remembering The Alamo

In the early '70s, a host of country-music mavericks moved to Texas in search of creative freedom. Ray Benson was one of them. At the urging of his friend, Willie Nelson, Benson brought his California western-swing band Asleep at the Wheel to Austin and garnered a devoted following.

Sound and the Fury

a week on the scene
Adopted Texans tend to be the most passionate ones, and that might explain Benson's fascination with the 19th century renegades who battled for Texas' independence at the Alamo. "The bottom line was, here was a place where they could start all over again," Benson says. "When I came to Texas 31 years ago, it was to start again. Texas was the land of opportunity, it always has been."

To Benson, the contradictory and thorny political issues involved in the Battle of the Alamo are secondary to the courage of the participants, and that's the mindset he brought to his group's 2003 album release, Asleep at the Wheel Remembers the Alamo - a collection spurred by the forthcoming release of the film, The Alamo.

Now, with the film's release imminent, Benson has organized a concert to benefit the Alamo, featuring songs from the record, interspersed with readings of various historical accounts of the battle.

"We originally wanted to do something at the Alamo, but then we realized that would be logistically tough," Benson says. "So we said, 'How about the most beautiful theater in Texas?' I wanted something that had a little bit more than music."

Benson says he knows at least a dozen people involved in the film project. Benson called one of those people, Billy Bob Thornton, during the making of the movie, to inquire whether a soundtrack album was planned. When Thornton said no, Benson felt compelled to put together his own musical document.

While he's reluctant to make too much of the connection between his own battles for independence and those of Crockett and Bowie, he sees it as all part of Texas' unspoken promise.

"The bottom line is that Texas is a state of mind and a place," he says. "I remember saying to Willie Nelson, 'Do you think we can actually make it there?' He said, 'If you can play "Fraulein," "Under the Double Eagle," and "San Antonio Rose," you can work all week.'"

Asleep at the Wheel's "Texas Music Salute to the Alamo" is scheduled for Friday, March 19 at the Majestic Theatre. Showtime is 8 p.m., and tickets range from $22.50-35. •

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