If you have heard any of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s music in the past umpteen years, you are going to know who this is from the first notes. That is not a negative; in fact, just the opposite. He has a distinctive sound, a sound that no one else has been able to achieve, and it fits his singular voice quite perfectly. It is just Ray Wylie Hubbard, which means not only an entertaining time, but also a number of songs that are distinctive and thought-provoking in a good way.
This is music for the guys hanging on the street corners, the ruffians and grifters. It is low-down dirty blues; songs that have been dragged thorugh the mud and used to mop up the floor. These are his convoluted songs of heaven and hell as seen from his own skewered perspective. Songs that have seen and experienced far more than their share of the world’s missteps and jokes.
He also has enlisted some of those who love his music on this disc to fill out some of the songs, or maybe they are folks he has played with, or whose music he likes. You will find Lucinda Williams, Eric Church, Patty Griffin, and psych-rockers Bright Light Social Hour all contributing to the music and songs he has written for this disc. He has the support of Jeff Plankenhorn (Dobro and mandolin), Bukka White (B3 organ), both Pat Manskee and Mike Morgan on bass, Kyle Schneider (drums, foot stops, shakers), and his son, Lucas, on lead guitar. The music, the songs and the instruments all highlight Hubbard’s ability to howl, moan, and point out the follies of the world, as well as slither through the songs. All this from the man who gave us the ’70s anthem “Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother.”
Hubbard sings, growls, and barks out the stories he writes as songs, he is a master storyteller – I think that is one of his greatest strengths. He can keep the audience on the edge of their chairs telling stories that are as entertaining and as enlightening and every bit as humorous, at times, as he is. There is an art to weaving even the worst catastrophe into a story that entertains and gets its point across successfully. Hubbard has that talent in spades, and it is on display here. His song/stories by turn stomp, snake, and just romp through the ether.
One thing can be promised if you have awareness and listen to one of his songs, or even better go to one of concerts: you will come away with a grin on your face and some more knowledge in your head. He is one of a kind and should be experienced live as he has that much to impart to us. Listen to what he, Eric Church, and Lucinda Williams do with the title track of this disc, it is sheer wizardry. For the record, the picture on the front of the disc is fantastic as it shows the picture of Ray you will come away with.
by bob gottlieb