By 'Rebel' Rod Ames
I swear to God! I realize this is cliché but Ray Wylie Hubbard is definitely like a fine wine; the older he gets the better he is.
When “A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no c)” (Bordello Records) came out I wrote that he had certainly raised the bar for himself. I had many doubts he’d be able to out-do that spiritually dark masterpiece, but he’s done it for sure with “The Grifter’s Hymnal” (Bordello Records).
I don’t usually do this but I stumbled upon a review of this record. I will not give the name of the reviewer or the publication, but he made a statement that told me volumes about the reviewer. I won’t quote him because then I’d have to give credit to him, revealing his identity. I do not want to embarrass him.
Anyway, the reviewer stated something to the effect that he didn’t know if Ray Wylie Hubbard was country or not! The answer is simple. Ray Wylie Hubbard is “country or not”. It all depends on the song.
Most of the time his music is a compilation of several genres within one – I guess you could say his music is at one with all. That is not to terribly ridiculous of a statement either. Most of Mr. Hubbard’s music from the early 90’s to present is profoundly spiritual, but not in a “Christian coalition right-wing Republican” kind of way.
He’s more on the level of Buddah on steroids. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, or perhaps a more appropriate term, and one frequently applied to him, would be grit.
There is plenty of grit here and I don’t mean on a song or two. He gets down and dirty on “New Years Eve At the Gates of Hell”. It’s a tune about his ill-fated relationship with Sustain Records honcho Jimmy Perkins –
‘Oh Hell, what is that aroma / It’s Jimmy Perkins and the other sons of bitches / who ripped off musicians and stole their riches / they’re earnin’ over yonder with the Fox News whores…’
Pulverizing lyrics indeed – by the end of the tune I too was pissed! I wanted to rip his head off and… Oh I’d better not. The point is that the tune grabs you from the get-go and doesn’t ever let go. It’s a great tune, and not even my favorite on the album. There are just too many great tunes on the album to pick a favorite. Never the less, it is a fine representation of the album.
The entire album sinks its gritty claws in to the listener and doesn’t let go. In my opinion, this is probably his most “devil-may-care” album to date. He says what he means and if you don’t like it, then don’t buy the damn thing.
I’ve said it before. Artists like Mr. Hubbard tend to take their time. They don’t hurry things along. They let it sit inside those wonderful brains of theirs metabolizing and morphing into what eventually becomes an album of incredible music.
I know I always come out after hearing one of his albums, and probably more so on “The Grifter’s Hymnal” than any other, realizing it seems as if I’m on the correct side of things most of the time, because rarely if ever, do I disagree with his message.
I will never, ever doubt that you can’t out do yourself again Mr. Hubbard. Right on!