Written by Jane Ponte
According to Ray Wylie Hubbard, the iconic Texas troubadour who played the legendary Old Quarter Acoustic Café in Galveston, Texas last weekend, he is “an acquired taste.” Judging from the 2 sold-out shows on Friday and Saturday nights, Galveston and the surrounding areas have a hearty appetite for the Elder Statesman of Grit ‘n Groove from Wimberly, Texas. The diverse crowd of hippies, cowboys, and older couples who sang along to nearly every song were proof that Hubbard’s music is both timeless and relevant, and most certainly loved by folks of all ages and backgrounds.
Accompanied by his son Lucas on lead guitar and drummer Kyle Schneider, Hubbard played for almost 2 hours on both nights and left his appreciative crowd cheering for more by each evening’s end. His eclectic mix of swampy, Delta blues-infused songs captivated the crowd, and his hilarious stories from his colorful life and upbringing in Oklahoma and crazier days in Texas left everyone in stitches as they shouted out requests for their favorite Ray Wylie tunes.
Hubbard was happy to oblige, and treated his audience to several of his better-known songs, including “Snake Farm” and “Drunken Poet’s Dream,” which he co-wrote with Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Hayes Carll, who, coincidentally, once bartended and played open mics at the Old Quarter and opened for Hubbard there as well. The crowd was extremely receptive to these songs and several others, but the standout moment of Friday evening’s show was Hubbard’s emotionally-gripping performance of his song “Dust of the Chase,” which first appeared on Hubbard’s 1994 album “Loco Gringo’s Lament” and was also featured in the Oscar-nominated movie “Hell or High Water,” starring Jeff Bridges. Hubbard shared that his wife and manager, Judy, had received a letter from a young man who was in the military and was a fan of Hubbard’s music. A correspondence ensued, and, at Judy’s urging, the couple went to meet the young man upon his return from Afghanistan. It was then that Hubbard learned that this young man’s “go-to” song throughout his time serving was “Dust of the Chase.” Hubbard shared that the song now “has a whole new meaning to me,” and, judging from the fact that you could hear a pin drop throughout his heart-wrenching delivery of this emotionally-charged tune, the audience seemed to internalize this new meaning as well. Truly, it was one of the finest moments in music that I’ve ever had the privilege to witness at the Old Quarter–or at any other venue in all my years of attending musical performances, period.
In his decades-long career as one of Americana’s most respected and beloved songwriters, Hubbard has won the hearts of Texans (and folks from all over the world, for that matter) with his self-deprecating humor and his quirky observations, and has never forgotten to pay homage to his heroes and predecessors. On any given evening, you can hear him regale his audience with stories about time spent with his unsung heroes and friends, such as Mance Lipscomb, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Terry Ware, Kevin Welch, Joe Walsh, Ringo Starr, or newer artists such as Eric Church. Hubbard’s humility, combined with the love and respect he has for his musical brothers and sisters is palpable—he generously shares stories from his past and present with his audience, and his songs effortlessly come to life because he does so. But these days, his songs seem to have a fresh, newer energy infused into them, thanks to the guitar prowess of Hubbard’s 25-year-old son, Lucas. The younger Hubbard has been playing lead guitar for his dad since his teens and has grown by leaps and bounds as a player in the process. His tasty chops have a sort of “less is more” quality about them, and they scream “old soul” when he delivers them. Clearly, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree when it comes to this father and son—Lucas Hubbard not only looks like a younger version of his dad, but he also embodies the funky, gritty coolness that has been a trademark of his dad’s since the very beginning.
Kyle Schneider helped set the groovy-yet-swampy tone with his understated drumming style and creative use of shakers and other items, providing the rhythm throughout both evenings of music as Hubbard’s appreciative audience continued to shout out song titles, laugh, and participate in a sing-along or two, including one of Hubbard’s best-known songs, “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother.” Before we knew it, two wonderful evenings of camaraderie and musical merriment had passed swiftly by. The friendly, down-home ambience of the Old Quarter, combined with the iconic music of Ray Wylie Hubbard, was truly a gift that won’t soon be forgotten by those who attended these delightful shows. Amongst the sea of hucksters, charlatans, ruffians and grifters that Hubbard shares with us through his songs, he remains a true Texas treasure and a bright, shiny jewel that all of us will forever love and cherish. Come back soon, Ray, and bring your demons and angels and grit and gratitude with you. To quote you, “some things here under heaven are cooler ‘n hell,” and you’re definitely one of them.