Out Here

Ray, out west

Live at Cibolo Creek Country Club
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Misery Loves Company

Dallas native Ray Wylie Hubbard no doubt understands that mythology can be a very powerful and sometimes dangerous thing. One of the many Texas artists given the big-time music business shot in the early 1970s, during the great progressive country scare, Hubbard left myths in his wake--that, and the very mixed blessing of writing the beer-sotted anthem "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother." Back in their day, Hubbard and his Cowboy Twinkies were legendary for their raw, anarchic and almost punky honky-tonk rave-ups, and Ray Wylie lived off stage as wildly as he played on stage. It was almost as though, after penning "Redneck Mother," Hubbard was driven to penance by becoming the song's worst nightmare--a substance-fueled wild man--and, in the great musical tradition, have his hit also serve as his epitaph.

But the intervention of God and reason altered Hubbard's fate, and while personal sobriety is frequently the death knell for artistic vitality, that's not the case with this particular talent. Since 1992's Lost Train of Thought, Hubbard has been ascending a ladder to an artistic and mystical heaven, with each successive album coming closer to that place. And in his transfiguration from outlaw to sagebrush sage, Live At Cibolo Creek Country Club is like a sweet moment of repose and reflection from a new and deeply satisfying plateau.

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These days, Hubbard writes like a Hill Country Buddha meditating under a cedar tree, his songs full of Western mysticism and mythic tales. And the music is rich with the late-night echoes of the post-progressive country melodicism that plays between the Saturday-night closing of the honky-tonk and the opening hymn of Sunday-morning services. The feel here is as much a friendly jam as it is live concert, with hot pickers such as Stephen Bruton and Lloyd Maines, as well as accordionist Lisa Mednick, bringing dusky splashes of color to Hubbard's sepia-toned tales of restlessness and redemption. This 10-song sampler of the reborn Hubbard gleans some, but hardly all, of his notable recent writing, and the inclusion of his cheeky and desert-dry stage raps enhances the set's new myth-making for an artist who has arisen from more than metaphorical flames.

And yes, he reprises "Redneck Mother," titled here "The Obligatory Encore," and he refers to it--apologizes for it--in the liner notes as "the event that paid the rent." Yet coming after Hubbard's adrenal "Wanna Rock And Roll" mutating into "Folsom Prison Blues," "Redneck Mother" takes on nearly as much of a new cast as its writer himself. He delivers it with a relaxed two-step savior faire that shows he's made as much peace with his most reckless creation--"a song that probably should never been written, let alone recorded, let alone recorded again," as he says in mid-song--as he has his own demons.

--Rob Patterson

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