“A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)” is the latest from Ray Wylie Hubbard and is nothing less than superb
By ‘Rebel’ Rod Ames
Behead yourself! Dissolve your whole self into vision: become seeing, seeing, seeing!
I’ve said it once and I’ll keep saying it until I see something change, “Texas music has become so extremely diluted; sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish it from the crap emitted from the sewers running beneath the city of Nashville.”
There are a few exceptions. Guy Clark continues to write and record in his own unique and earthy style. Hayes Carll is releasing some amazing music, as is Jon Dee Graham. There are others but this is not the topic at hand here. Thank the God of your choice, whoever that is, for the above artists and others like them who have yet to sell their souls.
In addition, thank him, her, or it for this latest record from Ray Wylie Hubbard! This enormously talented singer and songwriter has once again blessed us with his latest release from Bordello Records, “A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)”.
This latest endeavor, scheduled for release today, is a tremendously good album and I would have to say, it’s his best album to date. In fact, the more I listen to it the more I want to use the word “Masterpiece”. He just keeps writing better, playing better, singing better, working with great producers and engineers. Everyone just seems to be clicking along on all pistons, coming together to out do themselves time and time again. You would think, at some point, he would reach his apex, but he keeps out doing himself release after release. Is there no end to this? I certainly hope not. As far as I’m concerned, this could go on forever.
Mr. Hubbard has invited many of the usual suspects to join him in this latest effort. Seth James, Gurf Morlix, Ray’s son Lucas Hubbard (on board for a couple track), and Rick Richards are as reliable as ever.
Lucas Hubbard is maturing into a superb lead guitarist in his own right.
I saw Ray do a solo gig in Kerrville, Texas at the now defunct Hill Country Opry. It was about 6 years ago so Lucas may have been about eleven, or maybe twelve back then. When we walked in Ray and Lucas were over to the side of the small stage in what appeared to be a guitar lesson or maybe the two were just warming up. I just remember me walking up to Ray after they were through, and introducing myself. Lucas set the acoustic guitar he had been playing to the side and ran outside the establishment to play in the beer garden with my then nine or ten-year-old son, Kyle.
Let’s just say, Lucas doesn’t run out to play anymore. He stays on the stage and holds his own with the likes of Seth James, Gurf Morlix, and many others. He plays lead on several tracks on this record and does an outstanding job on “Wasp’s Nest” and “Pots and Pans”. Why shouldn’t he? The lad has had some remarkable teachers come along in his young life. Besides, it’s obviously in the genes.
Also on this outing Mr. Hubbard invited Austin based singer-songwriter Bukka Allen to join the mix, adding his virtuosity on keyboards for several tracks. He is an extremely welcome addition to the record, especially on “Loose” where he plays organ.
David Abeyta of Reckless Kelly plays guitar on the same track. Mr.Abeyta brings his expertise and commanding style of guitar playing to this tune and literally cuts “Loose” (pun definitely intended) on the tune “Loose”, a great rock ballad cut out of the same cloth as an old Allman Brothers Band song but performed in such a way only Mr. Hubbard could perform it. Ray’s raspy voice adds to the bluesy nature of the lyrics. It may be the most traditionally rock ‘n roll song on the record and I loved it.
Ray Wylie Hubbard, since (in my opinion) 1994’s “Loco Gringo’s Lament”, continues to raise the bar for himself, getting better and better with each endeavor. This record is no exception to that rule. The bar has, once again been raised. You will never put a Ray Wylie Hubbard record on and ridiculously inquire, “Is that Trace Adkins?” Those knowledgeable in the traditions of Mr. Hubbard will just simply express themselves with a shit eating grin and in an almost orgasmic tone respond, “oh yeah, Ray!”
The tunes on this record have all been so sonically well written, arranged, laid out, and performed, a mood or setting is being created for the listener to actually reside. It is sound, yet the listeners will feel as if they can actually reach out and touch it. This is because Mr. Hubbard’s signature resides on every track. The record has a very rich and clean sound to it, creating an atmosphere that surrounds the listener. When listening to the record, close your eyes, you will feel something very organic engulfing your very being.
Gurf Morlix helped with the engineering of the album and it shows. It may have Mr. Hubbard’s signature, but it most definitely has Mr. Morlix’s fingerprints, as did Betty Soo’s fantastic record released last year, “Water Sin Heat Skin”.
The title of the album is as appropriately named as any record Mr. Hubbard has recorded. I would have to say “A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)” is somewhat of spiritually conceived recording, but spiritualism via Ray Wylie Hubbard.
This record could be listened to by a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Native-American Spiritualist, someone Islamic, hell it could be listened to by an atheist, and no one would be offended. At least they shouldn’t be. So, in that sense, It’s not as simple a recording as it would at first appear. I prefer to call it “Ray Wylie Hubbardism”. It’s open to everyone. Just bring the God of your choice, or bring no one at all along for the ride. Just be sure to buckle you, him, her, or it in tight. It’s going to be an unrestrained roller coaster of a ride.
‘Rebel’ Rod says to stop in your tracks and purchase your copy of “A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)”. Can anyone smell a Grammy? I can. Remember, the Americana genre now has its own category. You know something though; Ray Wylie Hubbard may be entirely to cool for the “Dark Lords of Grammydomorah”.
A final note:
All you young up and comers out there trying to imitate all those mainstream cats. Listen to this record or anything else Ray Wylie Hubbard has recorded and ask yourself; do I want to sound like everyone else or do I want to put out some great fucking music? Ultimately, it’s your decision, but remember, you will always have to go home and look at yourself in the mirror. If you’re unable to do that, you have become a failure, and it won’t matter how thick your wallet is.