Longtime area favorites Asleep At The Wheel were as musically outstanding as ever last night at the Wax Museum. The eight-piece band featured its typically eclectic mix of country jazz, boogie and jump blues, all invigorated by precision trade-offs between piano, fiddle, pedal steel and sax. The band was led by Ray Benson whose loony humor and deep, booming voice make him one of the most commanding presences in country music.

Benson's dry voice was perfectly suited for the western swing classics he sang, such as "Miles and Miles of Texas." Benson was assisted by Jan Brown, who turned in a dramatic and sultry version of "You Don't Own Me." In the best tradition of the Texas roadhouse, the band applied its impressive musicianship toward the creation of a packed dance floor--and succeeded.

Opening was Dave Allen, a local singer-songwriter who, backed by an excellent country-rock band, turned in a wonderful set of original material. Allen's voice, like his songs, was warm and engaging with a countryish tinge. Steuart Smith played mostly piano, but his guitar solos, sizzling collages of hard country licks, were easily the instrumental highlights of Allen's set. Allen is clearly talented enough to have a big future in popular music; if not Allen himself, then at least his songs.