Music Review : Ray Wylie Hubbard – A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is No C) [Bordello Records]
Ray Wylie Hubbard my have been born in Oklahoma, but he will forever be associated with the uniquely peculiar and distinguished title Texas songwriter. Whether he’s throwing off an ironic lark like Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother, which his buddy Jerry Jeff Walker turned into a monster hit in the 70’s – a song that rivaled Merle Haggard’s Okie from Muskogee as a misapplied (and misunderstood) anthem for National pride and reactionary anti-60s sentiment – or releasing his newest gem A. Elightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is No C) is will always he in the idiosyncratic halls shared with like of Willie Nelson. Terry Allen and Joe Ely.
I read recently that Hubbard has been catching up on reading he missed out due to his misspent youth. The list of books includes the works of Rumi and Rilke so this might have led to the zen-like title of his newest release (Not sure what led to the highlander cover shot though.) The album carries the genre track -jump of greasy white-blues that defined 2006’s Snake Farm and echos the spirits of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightnin’ Hopkins and T-Bone Walker.
Hubbard seems to be taking arrangemt notes from Tom Waits junkyard process. Mean bottle-neck slide, ports, pans, muddy mandolins, whaling harmonica, stomp boxes, rattles, shakers and what sounds like pieces of discarded tin are the elements gird his white blues-graveled growl.
The title cut starts things off with a secular-gospel tune complete with apocalyptic imagery, supporting chorus vocals and a mandoline that sound like it’s straight from Zeppelin’s Battle of Evermore. Drunken Poet’s Dream which was written with Hayes Carll. I’ve heard Carll do it on several occasions but Hubbard brings a new slant to a song that I believe probably reflects his past turbulent life “I got a woman who’s wild as Rome/She likes bein’ naked and gazed upon/She crosses a bridge and sets it on fire/She lands like a bird on a telephone wire/There’s some money on the table/There’s a gun on the floor/There’s some paperback books by Louis L’Amour.“ Genius…
Wasp’s Nest echos John Lee Hooker’s Crawlin’ King Snake with its slow/sticky Summer’s day pace. Hubbard even references Hooker and his song in the front porch stomper Down Home Country Blues – “I’m partial to ol’ Hooker, playing ‘Crawlin’ King Snake’/I can say that Muddy Waters is as deep as William Blake.”
Pots and Pans brings to mind recent blues outings by Lucinda Williams, but where Lu can’t quite bring herself to sell her soul Hubbard sings like a man possessed. Tornado Ripe is a great sonic counterpart to the Drive By Trucker’s Tornadoes from the Dirty South, and single dobro leads to a slow growing tune and rich with trailer park wisdom like “My mama used to tell me, that flies was the Devil’s ears and eye” and “The sky was black and jade now, and them clouds have grown a tail.”
Every Day is the Day of the Dead is an unhinged blues/metal fever dream that lies somewhere between the aforementioned Tom Waits and Scott H. Biram and Opium takes it’s rightfully woozy place in a long line of odes to the historic and culturally renowned narcotic
Like other white contemporary Texas blues artists like ZZ Top, Scott H. Biram and the late Stevie Ray Vaughn the reverence to the tradition is evident A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is No C), and again like those artists Ray Wylie Hubbard takes it to apologetically personal expression with an I don’t-give-a-shit swagger that only a Texan could pull off.