by Lew Herman
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Aug. 9, 2012
Looking like an older and wiser John Lennon, Texas songster and Oklahoma-raised Ray Wylie Hubbard eased into a long set Thursday night with charm, sly humor and a dose of articulate, potent tunes on topics ranging from 19th century poetry (“Drunken Poets Dream”) to sing-along’s about reptile raising (“Snake Farm"). It was a geezer crowd, which made sense - Hubbard is well over 60 himself (“I don’t want to peak too soon”) - but there was a scattering of all ages among the dense, sellout crowd.
Best known by some for his anthem “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” he performed as a top-caliber showman, guitarist and talker, introducing all songs and sucking the crowd into every tune he offered. Introducing his “band” consisting solely of drummer Kyle Schneider, he moved quickly into classic form with “Snake Farm.”
He oozes charm and charisma and has written some incredibly good songs. Taking his time, some of his jaw-dropping tunes were mini raveups lasting five or 10 minutes, with his nasally voice, crackling lyrics and snaky slide guitar anchored by his rock-steady drummer and maracas player.
Hubbard's cover of James McMurtry’s “Choctaw Bingo” was spot-on, while some songs surprisingly resembled "Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” or the talking blues of Rambling Jack Elliott. He played “Down Home Country Blues” reminiscent of fellow Oklahoman Woody Guthrie, with folksy yet outspoken political and cultural outbursts. Hubbard even quoted Guthrie’s famous statement of purpose: “To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” He’s not entirely P.C., but that’s part of his charm.
Hubbard is one of the original cosmic cowboy Texas singer/songwriters in the Jerry Jeff Walker tradition (Walker made Hubbard's "Redneck Mother" famous) In the 1970s, Hubbard was too confrontational, outrageous and ornery for the record companies and public. Often shunned, Hubbard has survived and prospered from singers who have covered his songs, “including even Cracker,” he recalls. Today, he may be even more valid than ever. If I was in charge, he’d be declared a national treasure.