At 68, Ray Wylie Hubbard is more raw-boned, knotty, knobby and rough-hewn in his post-psycho-country approach to drifter’s rock than ever. Guitars hiss, sting and slash; the beats haunted and tribal all underscore a voice that’s parched earth—as much by design as what’s leftover from a life lived to the hilt. Hubbard, whose initial fame came from “Up Against The Wall (Redneck Mother),” has been hell-bent and sanctified, squalid and profound.
Is Ray Wylie Hubbard a country artist? Is he a bluesman? Is he a rocker? Well, he's all those things at any given moment, and doesn't seem to worry about where you file his album as long as you give it a fair hearing. Hubbard's long been a man who does things his own way, and at the age of 68, he's more determined than ever to make music on his own terms and no one else's. That strategy is working pretty well for him, too.
Jethro Tull titles notwithstanding, who else believes the cliché “too old to rock and roll/too young to die”? It’s clearly not the nearly 70 year old, Texas-by-way-of-Oklahoma bard, Ray Wylie Hubbard. Like leather, he gets harder and tougher as more wrinkles add to the existing lines on his weather-beaten face. The veteran singer/songwriter seems to have taken musical and philosophical direction from his peers the Rolling Stones, who are referenced in at least three selections and whose vibe resonates through the rest.
Ray Wylie Hubbard may seem to get more cantankerous as he gets older, but it’s just a pose. Sure he growls and spits out his lyrics and plays a nasty guitar. Hubbard may even complain loudly as if it hurts to sing authentically. Yet careful attention to his latest album, The Ruffian’s Misfortune, reveals he’s fairly content with his lot in life.
There are Texas outlaws, and then there’s Ray Wylie Hubbard. Maybe only Billy Joe Shaver can match him as an ornery dude that you don’t want to mess with. After all, Hubbard first became known as the writer of “Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother.” On The Ruffian’s Misfortune, Hubbard cranks it up and lets loose. Or to quote one of his tunes here – he’s “badass rockin’.” Backed by some jacked up guitar playing from Gabe Rhodes and Lucas Hubbard (Ray Wylie’s son), he delivers ten rough and tumble tunes that tend to touch on a sense of looming mortality or the joys of music.
Ray Wylie Hubbard — The Ruffian’s Misfortune (Bordello)He’s been mixing country, folk, and blues for decades now, but Ray Wylie Hubbard’s still refining his sound. The Grifter’s Hymnal from 2012 marked a high point, a spiritual brew never diluted by the religious (but salted with the funny), and it makes sense for Hubbard to continue that work. On The Ruffian’s Misfortune, Hubbard fits his sharp lyrics around steady grooves, sometimes moving into a boogie-style or even something closer to hill country blues at times.Whatever traditions he pulls from, though, Hubbard remains a country singer with a rock ‘n’ roll heart.
Ray Wylie Hubbard The Ruffian's Misfortune (Bordello) Ray Wylie Hubbard might be bulletproof. At the age of 68 and with the release of his 16th album, the Texas outlaw can do what he wants, and The Ruffian's Misfortune serves as proof. Still, one must wonder what a younger RWH would say about a song as juvenile as "Chick Singer, Badass Rockin'," all slide guitar and heavy beat over a litany of female attributes including "short skirt, torn stockings." As in his recent past, the grit and groove are all in place, but it's the caliber of Hubbard's subject matter that's lacking here.