A Ray Wylie Hubbard concert guarantees a great night of music, funny stories and seeing old friends from previous RWH shows. This night at the Granada Theater was no exception and the singer/songwriter sounded better than he had in years, he looked good and obviously felt good, and that combination produced a fantastic concert.
Opening the night was Kelley Mickwee, an exceptionally talented singer/songwriter who was previously in The Tricias and Shinyribs before striking out on her own. She was accompanied by Collin Brooks, formerly of Band Of Heathens, and a solid player himself. Kelley has a beautiful voice and showed it off on several songs off her new album, "Gold Standard." While several of her songs have a Red Dirt country feel, some almost sound like a waltz. Everything she sang was wonderful and her full voice felt exciting as well as comforting at times.
Over the years, Ray has learned how to put together a show that ebbs and flows and engages the audience to become part of the show. He was in fine voice and mentioned Dallas, TX, early and often to everyone's delight as the name of the town always elicits a huge hand. People come to his concerts on purpose and know that songs such as "Snake Farm" are singalongs and they sing every word as if they wrote it themselves.
Hubbard co-writes with friends such as Hayes Carll on "Drunken Poet's Dream." He naturally had a story to go along with it and then added a rocking harmonica solo and the lead guitarist, his son Lucas, belted out a scintillating solo that started people to sway along with the beat. As only Ray can do, he stated that he was an acquired taste and the next song would weed you out. It led into "Mother Blues" about the famous nightclub and "had a groove you could hammer nails with." This reporter then asked a Hubbard concert newbie if she was a convert and she quickly answered, "He's actually pretty good for whatever he is!"
RWH talked about the joy of being able to play in a band with his son, who has turned into a very good guitarist. He showed that many times with short riffs during a song and longer solos that turned songs into jams. Drummer Kyle Snyder was also steady all night and single-handedly kept the beat for the two guitarists. Another story about a bad gig was the impetus for "Bad Trick" which contained the profound lyric, "Dancin' is promiscuous if it's after midnight." The recording and video also starred Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh and Chris Robinson to add a little firepower.
"'Tell The Devil I'm Getting There As Fast As I Can' is hopefully a metaphor and not a prophecy," according to Hubbard, who also hopes that "God grades on a curve. I figure I'm about a C+." His rollicking voice even got stronger as the night wore on. The audience members who had only seen him a couple of times could easily understand his distinctive lyrics and were seen deep in thought at words of wisdom such as, "I love a woman who's pretty reckless; She's not afraid of her redneckness." They also loved the line, "I'm gonna drink til I see double and take one of you home."
Hubbard also brought Collin Brooks back to the stage to play lap steel on his most famous song. He told about writing it and Jerry Jeff Walker making it famous and how a woman once threatened him when he told he might not play it during a show. The audience knew what they were getting next and erupted at the first notes of "Redneck Mother." RWH admitted it was a singalong song and let the crowd take over, albeit much slower than it was written, as soon as he began singing, "He was born in Oklahoma; His wife's name is Betty Lou Thelma Liz..." Each verse was loud than the previous one and everyone sang as if their very lives depended on the decibel level in the theater.
"I Wanna Rock And Roll" was indeed a rocker that he wrote with Cross Canadian Ragweed members and told the crowd how he used the royalty check to buy a fence. That led into the last song, "Desperate Man," that he wrote with country music star Eric Church and contained a great RWH solo on the Mississippi Sax (harmonica). It was a fantastic final song with a jam that kept people awake for hours. With that royalty check, he said, he was able to buy a gate for that fence.
The band then put down their instruments and tried to leave but didn't get far. The thunderous applause kept them from leaving the stage and they picked up drum sticks and guitars and wailed away on "Choctaw Bingo." Some of the crowd danced away while the ones who stayed seated still swayed and moved and grooved and did the sit-down version of the Saratoga Turkey Trot as the band turned it into a show-ending jam session.
Ray Wylie Hubbard has learned the art of putting together a show that keeps everyone engaged and it seems to get better and better over time. Again, his new album is Co-Starring Too. Special thanks to Tara Wurts and Courtney and the rest of the staff at the Granada Theater. They host excellent concerts you don't want to miss.