Ray Wylie Hubbard is an Oklahoma native who later moved to Texas and fell in with the likes of Waylon Jennings, Doug Sahm, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jack Elliot and Gurf Morlix. Hubbard exists as a troubadour of the highest order who has always tested musical boundaries. Regarding the album title, Hubbard explains: “I like to look at enlightenment and endarkment. I feel comfortable observing each. Now I really feel like when I gave up the right to judge anybody a long time ago. With my behavior back in my twenties and thirties, I don’t have any right. I really don’t...”
A. Enlightenment, B. Endarkment (Hint: There Is No C) counts as his 12th album. Hubbard contends as a great songwriter and these new hypnotic songs call to mind the Flannery O’Connor quote, "Never second guess inspiration.” Hubbard recently wrote a screenplay that got funded and filmed ( “set in 1912 so we can have a Buick and a motorcycle and automatic weapon as well as horses”) with a cast including Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam and Lizzy Caplan. Hubbard also hosts a radio show every Tuesday.
The title track serves as the opening foot-stomping ditty about a “black sparrow” where “heaven pours down like rain and lightning bolts”. “Drunken Poet’s Dream” ranks as a mighty fine song about a woman that “likes to stay naked all the time”, and the guitar playing, for this writer, sounds beyond formidable. One of the album’s strongest cuts...
“Down Home Country Blues” sounds just like the title says. “Wasp’s Nest” indicates Hubbard’s been influenced by blues bottleneck slide players for decades and it comes through the amplifier on this one. “Pots and Pans”—with a ramshackle charm—sounds like it was recorded in a big echo-chamber kitchen. This one is what gets everyone loose before the party actually lifts off.
“Tornado Pipe” Dobro-drenched song with ominous images—like crows perched nearby—a wicked funnel that brings rain and hail--that hands down phrases, stories and and wisdom from one generation to the other. “Whoop and Hollar” stands as an original song, but sounds like an old congregation anthem that one might find quite rejuvenating on a Sunday morning in church.
“Black Wings” a haunted old acoustic ditty that evokes sad goodbyes, gospel jubilees, a diamonds and debris farewell out on the lost highway. “Loose”, a workingman hymn, with a Bourbon Street mention proves stirring. This song really drives home Hubbard’s talent in lyrics, guitar playing, and his great road-ridden voice.
“Every Day is the Day of the Dead”…calls to mind one of my favorite novels, Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry…but the song is a adrenaline-laced country blues…a real skull and bones mantra. “Opium”, another gem, backwater-blues at it’s finest with hypnotic lyrical melody, ”Beautiful smoke/beautiful smoke/whispers never mind/whispers never mind/opium/opium.”
One final track, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, evoke an Appalachian banjo-driven-mountain-preacher-wailing-for-the-last-time about The Book of Revelation. A. Enlightenment, B. Endarkment commands respect…consequently, so does Ray Wylie Hubbard. Seek him out…