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Texas-based Americana singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard when it comes to music, and his life too is he's a living phenomena. Oklahoma-born and long-time Austin, TX resident the 70-year-old Hubbard after turbulent times of the 1970s he shook of his addictions and reinvented himself. He was turning the Americana furrow before it became in- vogue. His relentless wall-to-wall rhythms and wild, and sometimes dark and scary lyrics are potent enough to blow the cap off an oil well.


Country, blues and folk meet at the crossroads on many of the occasions, songs like “Dead Thumb King”. Here he speaks of having some dirt from Lightnin’ Hopkins grave and bones from an old black crow and a bouquet of fourteen black roses and drinks ginseng weed, sulphur and honey. “God Looked Around” that opens the record is his tilt on a biblical story of another kind. One where he asks and deliberates over lots of questions regards the story of creation, and he gets to explain his thinking. Talk about drama and wild imagery little comes close to a Ray Wylie Hubbard classic. I would love to hear him and Ray Bonneville record! 


Among the ingredients of the album you have blues greats, religious darkness, folklore and mystical edge of one of Texas’ neighbouring states, Louisiana; plus the musical influence of the Mississippi Delta and beyond. Assisting Hubbard you have his electric lead guitar playing son, Lucas Hubbard, Kyle Schneider (drums)Jeff Plankenhorn (dobro, mandolin), Bukka Allen (B3 organ), and on bass Mike Morgan and Pat Manskee. With producer George Reiff having passed away and another who has produced his work, Gurf Morlix working in Canada - Hubbard found himself in the driving seat. He has made a mighty fine job too, for one he’s given the record among the tough and fierce passages of music beautiful subtlety.


“Tell The Devil I’m Getting’ There As Fast As I Can” is a powerful story. He speaks of one night playing support for Sun Volt and compares being in love with a  woman he met that night to living in a thunderstorm. And how she plays an old sunburst in an alt-country band as he tells the devil he is getting there as fast as he can. Accompanying him on vocals on the song you have the complementary pairing of Eric church and Lucinda Williams, and oodles of electric lead guitar and swirling B3-organ. Gritty country folk act Patty Griffin joins Ray Wylie on a painstaking “In Times Of Cold”. Her tones ensure the song makes it home safely. The record isn’t one where one song runs into another, although he does have the ability to forge such grooves; only on this album he doesn’t stick to any one mainline, as he takes the listener along a branch line or two. The wonderful ghost-like story “House Of The White Rose Bouquet” was written with the classic mysterious tale of “Long Black Veil” in mind) and “The Rebellious Sons”. Performed with special guests, Austin-based psych-rock band, Bright Lights Social Hour he kicks up a ruckus as he dabbles with a little folklore. 'Basically, I sat down with the intent to write this mythological, Holy Grail / Games Of Thrones king of thing, and then invited the boys because I knew they would be perfect for it' says Hubbard. You might think it is so strong and punishing and likely to win the accolade as the strongest on display, but you had best think again! “Wolf“ (as in Howlin' Wolf) that follows has a clean-cut groove like no other, as it stokes up a relentless cool as you like rhythm and rattling fine lead guitar to aid some of the best vocals on the record by Hubbard.        


Other noteworthy songs include the dobro warmed “Prayer”, and his tribute to infamous blues men John Koerner, Dave “Snaker” Ray and “Little Sun” Glover “Spider, Snaker And Little Sun”. Immediately afterwards “Lucifer And The Fallen Angels” speaks of going to Nashville, and putting a publisher in jail. It's an epic, and with addictive swirling guitar at the forefront RWH presses home in relentless fashion. Same goes for the song he wrote about under praised bluesman Koerner and his friends. So vivid is the tale, you feel like you went to the show by the boys. While fans of open tuning Hubbard plays some exquisite slide on “Open G” (this as he explains the beauty, and art of playing that way) and there's more, as he marries Dante-esque flavours with the devils music, the blue, plus folk, country and a wild imagination that near  boils over. 


                                                            Maurice Hope  


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March 2018

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