Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ray Wylie Hubbard at Hill Country Barbecue + Market

Ray Wylie Hubbard was born in Soper, Oklahoma, but moved as a youth with his family to Dallas, Texas. There he learned to play guitar, eventually forming a folk group with fellow aspiring musician Michael Martin Murphey. During his college years, Hubbard formed a trio named Three Faces West and spent the summers playing in Red River, New Mexico. Upon the breakup of Three Faces West, Hubbard toured the Southwestern coffeehouse circuit as a solo artist, then formed another short-lived group, Texas Fever. During his time in New Mexico, Hubbard wrote "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother," which Jerry Jeff Walker recorded and turned into an outlaw anthem in 1973. Hubbard gained cult status within progressive country circles, and assembled the also short-lived cowpunk blues band Ray Wylie Hubbard & the Cowboy Twinkies. Hubbard rode the post-Nashville progressive outlaw country wave of the 1970s and beyond as a respected name but with minimal album sales. Currently based in Wimberly, Texas, Hubbard released his 16th album, The Ruffian’s Misfortune, on April 7, 2015.

If it sounds like Texas, it deserves to headline at Hill Country Barbecue + Market. The 69-year-old Hubbard came to the venue tonight with his 23-year-old guitar playing son, Lucas Hubbard, and drummer Kyle Snider. Perhaps Hubbard was promoting his memoirs, A Life ... Well, Lived, published on November 5, 2015; the trio played a two-hour set, but quite a lot of the time was spent on Hubbard chatting a humorous spin on his career. Hubbard delivered the timing and pitch of a professional comedian on these anecdotes. His lyrics similarly often exhibited his wit, but also the moving, introspective life of a lonesome cowboy on the road. The set was grounded on country music, but many of the songs were straight-forward blues. The set was kept jumping by his vast catalogue of rowdy barroom honky-tonk songs, however. The elder Hubbard impressed on slide guitar, but the younger Hubbard was even more impressive with a subtle yet sharp picking style. If everything is bigger in Texas, then New York needs to make more room for this elder statesman of outlaw music.

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