Ray Wylie Hubbard
On a just-released video for the title tune to his next album, “Tell the Devil I’m Getting There as Fast as I Can,” you get a quick sense of who Ray Wylie Hubbard is, the brand of uncompromising music he dispenses and the kind of company he keeps.
For those unfamiliar with his work, here is how all of that unfolds.
Who is he? Well, Hubbard is one of the last pioneering members of a thriving progressive country scene that boomed out of central Texas in the early ’70s. He penned one of the era’s classic songs, “Up Against the Wall.” But several of his early albums, usually due to misguided production, didn’t always reflect the vibe and spirit of his lyrics. After spending much of the late ’80s derailed from the music industry due to a growing dependency on drugs and alcohol, he jump-started a recording career in the ’90s that remains as prolific as it is respected to this day.
What is his music like? For a guy born in Oklahoma, it sure sounds saturated in weather-beaten Lone Star soul. But thematically? That’s where the magic of Hubbard’s music really ignites. Take, for instance, the titles of the three albums leading up to “Tell the Devil”: 2010’s “A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment,” 2012’s “The Grifter’s Hymnal” and 2015’s “The Ruffian’s Misfortune.” Hubbard’s songs are populated by restless, rambling and roguish souls, but on “Tell the Devil,” their sentiments spill out as a kind of boozy reclamation. No wonder Lucinda Williams guests on the song.
The company he keeps? OK, we already let loose one surprise with Williams’ appearance on “Tell the Devil.” But the new song and video also boast footage of Hubbard onstage in front of a massive arena crowd and an appreciative Eric Church. Then again, the songsmith’s contemporaries during those golden years in Texas included Jerry Jeff Walker (who fashioned “Up Against the Wall” into a cult hit) and Willie Nelson. Oh, and did we mention that Ringo Starr made a cameo on “The Grifter’s Hymnal?”
Hubbard is back in Lexington this weekend to prove that, at age 70, he has plenty of tall Texas yarns to spin.
“I guess I’ve always had this fear of turning into a nostalgia act,” Hubbard told me in 2012, before a show at Cosmic Charlie’s that marked his Lexington debut after a career that had reached across four decades. “That’s something I did not want to do. I feel very fortunate in seeing great artists like Lightning Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb. But I also saw people like Ernest Tubb and all of these different, wonderful musicians who just kept doing it, you know? For people like Bill Monroe and John Lee Hooker, music is just what they did. There was no retirement for them, just as there, really, is no retirement for any songwriter.”
Wynonna and the Big Noise
If you hear a really Big Noise erupting down Interstate 75 on Saturday night, you can be sure that Wynonna Judd — well, just Wynonna, to you, me and her fans — is back on home-state turf.
The Ashland native is back at Renfro Valley on Saturday, still promoting a 2016 album whose title underscores the sense of solidarity she shares with her current band, “Wynnona and the Big Noise.”
The singer is giving the record an extra offstage push this summer. She just released her first music video in 14 years for the tune “Keeps Me Alive.” The clip sports an appearance by Derek Trucks, the same guitar great who helps distinguish the tune on the album.