Cooler ‘n Hell
If there were a formula for how to become a legend, Texas songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard would be a corollary to that formula. That he is a legend cannot be denied and was proven once again on a Sunday night in Nashville for a Lightning 100 radio show.
Hubbard just released his latest album The Ruffian’s Misfortune earlier this month, but it was seven songs into his set before he played a song from the new album. He opened the night two songs from his 2006 album Snake Farm, “Rabbit” and the crowd favorite title track. Next, he played two songs from his 2010 album A: Enlightenment, B: Endarkenment (Hint There is no C:): “Drunken Poet’s Dream” which he co-wrote with Hayes Carll and “Down Home Country Blues”. He followed that with a couple of songs from his 2012 album, The Grifter’s Hymnal: “Mother Blues” and “Count My Blessings”.
The music was uncompromising Roots music which contained elements of Country, Folk, and a healthy dose of the Blues in a mix that Hubbard has molded into his own unique style. He introduced, “Mr. Musselwhite’s Blues” from his latest album revealing that he has written some songs with the blues legend which he hopes to record soon. “Stone Blind Horses” and “Bad on Fords” also from the new album, show that Ray Wylie Hubbard is showing no sign of slowing down or stopping. He closed out the radio broadcast with his song “Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll” from Loco Gringo’s Lament which he mashed up with the traditional blues song “John the Revelator” to great effect.
Immediately after the radio sign-off, Hubbard told a story about the first time he wrote a song with a woman, and then played the song, “Train Yard” which he wrote with Liz Foster of The Trishas. He then announced that Liz Foster was present and invited her to the stage for a spirited cover of “You Gotta Move” the traditional African-American spiritual made famous by Mississippi Fred McDowell and later covered by The Rolling Stones for their album Sticky Fingers.
Seemingly reluctantly (and by request), Hubbard played one of his earliest songs, “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” which was famously recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker, and which he explained was written in a time before Willie Nelson brought the Rednecks and the Hippies together. He then invited Country legend Gary Nicholson to play guitar on “Cooler ‘n Hell” and then urged by the crowd, he played one final song – his version of the James McMurtry classic “Choctaw Bingo”.
The traditional formula for being a legend usually includes hitting a stride and coasting, but Ray Wylie Hubbard has never been one for following formulas.
One of East Nashville’s best young songwriters, Aaron Lee Tasjan opened the show with a set of his original songs. Tasjan, who has lent his guitar skills to bands as diverse as Drivin’ ‘n’ Cryin’ and The New York Dolls, moved to East Nashville a few years ago and began to gain a reputation as a songwriter. On songs like, “East Nashville Song About a Train” and his epic “Streets of Galilee”, Tasjan manages to combine pop-culture references and humor with powerful, chill inducing lines.