Review by Bokonon
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Albany’s a Texas town of late, with the coming and going or incipient arrival of Lone Star legends like Butch Hancock, Walt Wilkins, Gurf Morlix, Alejandro Escovedo, Kinky Friedman and so on.
Ray Wylie Hubbard brought Texas downtown a few Mondays back, playing to a mullet-shaped crowd that was all business in the front and hootin’ and hollerin’ in the back.
How could you not hoot to “Snake Farm?” Ask the people in the front, not me.
Hubbard’s rekkids are journeyman boogie with better lyrics. But it’s sometimes hard to hear past the production to those words. Live, Hubbard comes across as much more of an individual than he does on aluminum.
Certainly the stories that precede the songs add humanity and humor, but the tunes themselves glisten with Texas zen when stripped back to the dust-blown essentials.
At The Linda last week, Hubbard had his son Lucas by his side, providing the Lightnin’ Hopkins sting and the Travis County noodle in equal six-string doses. Hubbard harkens to Townes Van Zandt in his fascination with the card-sharping, pistol-toting side of barroom life. But his celebration of it is as much Bukowski as it is Fante, so he gets more laughs. Lyrically, he’s closer kin to James McMurtry, who has clearly dipped his baitcan in Hubbard’s cooler more than once. Ironic then that Hubbard got his best response of the night with an encore of McMurtry’s “Choctaw Bingo.”
In an odd nod to radio decorum, he left the “big ol’ hard on” verse to the rowdy faithful in the back, but they dropped the ball on it, already a few beers deeper than they needed to be.
Texas blues has its own stripe, especially when you’re talking the troubadourial sort. Hubbard actually fits that mold much better than he does the folk bard, and his visit to The Linda, with tunes like “Mississippi Flush,” “Without Love” and “Drunken Poet’s Dream,” reminded all of the simple power of a five chord, a solid thumb and a point of view.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Hubbard’s greatest gift may be mixing the profound with the preposterous: In the autobiographical ‘Mother’s Blues’ he proclaimed any day when his gratitude exceeds his expectations is a good one. ‘The Messenger’ cited lessons from Rilke, he found cosmic correspondence between a roadside crow and Lightnin’ Hopkins’ music and level ground between Muddy Waters and Lord Byron. At the other end of the spectrum, the encore ‘Choctaw Bingo’ was deliciously rude. The man was a stitch and a stretch, as adroit a songwriting wordsmith as Willie Nelson or Rodney Crowell and — just staying with Texans, now – as distinctive and strong a singer as Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Unannounced opener Dustin Welch — son of singer-songwriter Kevin Welch, staying with that father-and-son thing — ambitiously claimed the whole Texas singer-songwriter tradition of frontier rawness, poetic sensitivity and personal mythmaking as his own. His reach somewhat exceeded his grasp, however, though the pop-y Jim Croce bounce of ‘Jolly Johnny Jumper’ and the rude criminal defense ditty ‘Don’t Tell ‘Em Nothin’’ gave good lift.”
RAY WYLIE HUBBARD SET LIST
Drunken Poet’s Dream
Down Home Country Blues
Count My Blessings
Dust of the Chase
The Knives of Spain
Wanna Rock and Roll > John the Revelator
Choctaw Bingo (James McMurtry)