Lincoln Durham Talks about Ray Wylie Hubbard co-produced CD that Debuts Today
Lincoln Durham’s new release, “The Shovel [vs]The Howling Bones,” debuts today (January 31).
Co-produced by none other than Texas music legend, Ray Wylie Hubbard, the CD is 11 original tracks featuring several of Austin’s musical elite (including some skillful picking by RWH himself) and showcasing Durham’s soulful, gritty voice and smart, dark lyrics that belie this musician’s relative youth.
Durham will open for The Band of Heathens at Tulsa’s All Soul Acoustic Coffeehouseon Saturday February 4. This Texas lineup should prove to be a memorable night of music.
With a voice that has been compared to Ray LaMontagne and Paul Rodgers, brooding lyrics that dance intriguingly on the edge of ghoulish, and an intense, swampy, Mississippi Delta sound, Durham has the soul of an old bluesman. That Howlin’ Wolf-ish soul, however, finds its incarnation in the form of a polite, gracious and upbeat young man from a small town in northern Central Texas, I discovered in a recent phone interview.
“I’m from a little town,” Durham told me. “Well, I was born in Whitney, Texas. I was raised in Itasca, Texas, and, really, the only reason I was born in Whitney was because it was the closest hospital there was to Itasca.” According to Durham, Itasca is pretty small. “When I was a kid, it was probably about 1000 people, and I would imagine it is still maybe a thousand and one people,” he joked. “It’s on 35. People pass through it all the time. They just don’t know it. Yeah, just a little town. Home of the Wampus Cats, actually,” Durham noted, referring to the local school mascot, a mythical cougar-like creature.
With the encouragement of his musical mentor Ray Wylie Hubbard, Durham moved to Austin about four years ago. “I came down just to go at it with the music,” Durham said. “(Hubbard) really pushed for the move down to Austin, and yeah, I have not regretted it a single day ever since. I would not leave Austin now. I love the town. I love the vibe, and I love the people.”
Durham credits Hubbard with teaching him a lot of what he knows. The two met at a New Year’s Eve gig Hubbard played a number of years ago. Hubbard liked what he heard of Durham’s music and saw the potential in the young artist. According to Durham, Hubbard started “teaching me the ropes of the music business. He’s the one that first taught me to fingerpick, and so it kind of all started from there, and he took me under his wing and I attribute a lot of what I do now to the seed that he planted.”
Durham describes what he does now as an “eccentric one-man band”. A contest fiddle player in his youth, this innovative musician has been adding instruments to his repertoire ever since. “My dad and my grandpa got me playing the fiddle when I was four years old,” Durham recounts. From the Bob Wills and bluegrass fiddle tunes of his early years, Durham “ventured off into guitar”, and his live act has kept growing. “It’s gotten really pretty big now. I play this PorchBoard. It’s a kick drum sounding thing that’s just like a mic rigged up under a rail of wood that this place out of Wisconsin makes. It gives a kind of big boom. I play the resonator and guitar and harmonica with it, and then do some fiddle songs. Working on some banjo stuff right now. It’s gotten over time to where it’s this kind of eccentric, loud solo thing that people say sounds like a full band, so I think I’m just going to ride that as long as I can, because I figure doing the solo thing, if I add mandolin, banjo and fiddle…it kind of makes up a one-man show.”
When he started out, Durham never intended to be a solo act. “It was my intent always, really, to get a band,” he noted. “What it was originally was Ray again, his influence,” Durham said. “He was showing me fingerstyle and he said to learn to play bass with your thumb and things like that so you’ll be able to carry a tune without anybody and add people when you need them, so that’s the basis for what I do.”
His solo show has been well received. “People really started talking about it and really digging it because it’s a lot of volume. I don’t mean loud as in ‘hey, I’m going to knock you down with this.’ It’s just a full sound. Anyway, people started talking about that and so I thought, well, I’ll just stick with what people are buzzing about so that’s really what I’m doing. It was never fully intentional; it just kind of happened,” Durham explained.
When he isn’t playing solo, Durham knows how to surround himself with great players. In addition to Hubbard, who is on the lovely cut “Clementine” from Durham’s new release, other musicians on the Lone Star-studded CD include Hubbard’s longtime drummer, Rick Richards. Of Richards, Durham commented, “Honestly, I could not imagine doing a record, especially that record, without Rick…I knew him from early on, and he’s Ray’s drummer, so he was a no brainer, and he’s on every album you love.” Co-producer George Reiff, Derek O’Brien, Jeff Plankenhorn, and Bukka Allen round out this talent rich pool of players. If you listen closely, you’ll even hear some great back up vocals from Idgy Vaughn. “Her backup on ‘Truckers’ made that song,” Durham said. “It turned the song from just bland and boring into one of the cooler ones on the CD. It was just perfect. It was real kind of back woodsy, but still right in the right spot. She’s got the perfect vibe for that. I was really happy with that.”
Durham’s wife Alissa appears on the CD, too. He gives Alissa a lot of credit for fostering his own career. “Yeah, she beat on a box and gang sang with us on “People of the Land,” and that was cool because she’s the brains behind the whole thing…She sacrifices a lot, you know, because she has to work as hard as I do, but it’s for my dream. It’s easier for me to work hard because it’s my dream, but with her, it’s a really cool thing for her to work as hard as I do.”
It’s a dream Durham has had for a long time, and it appears he’s realizing it. “All my life I thought my lot in life was to be a musician. I never knew how or necessarily took it seriously. I just thought that’s the way I would end up,” he laughed.
-With permission from The Current.