Album Review: Ray Wylie Hubbard, ‘The Ruffian’s Misfortune’
"I was raised on the Rolling Stones," sings veteran Texas troubadour Ray Wylie Hubbard, "cut my teeth on the Allman Brothers and Billy Gibbons' tone."
The lyric, from his new song "Bad on Fords and Chevrolets," pretty much spells-out where Hubbard is coming from musically on his new album, The Ruffian's Misfortune, which nevertheless actually amounts to much more than just a stewing pot of vintage rock and roll. (More on that in a moment.)
"Bad on Fords" also perfectly encapsulates Hubbard's charming way with words. He gives the song an irresistible singalong quality, turning phrases with an ease that makes he words roll off the tongue almost like a limerick. And his sassy attitude, convinces the listener that Hubbard may be a bad boy, but hey he'll love you right -- at 68 years old! If there was any justice, "Bad on Fords" would be a jukebox favorite in honky tonk bars across America. Hell, it would even make a great anthem for a car commercial, as unlikely as that would be, not only because Hubbard mentions two competing car companies, but also because his grit and wit isn't likely to land him TV spots with Toby Keith any time soon.
Hubbard may be raising hell and playing badass blues-influenced rock and roll throughout The Ruffian's Misfortune, but he's actually an elder statesman with roots in both folk and progressive country. He started out playing the former in Oklahoma in the '60s and went on to play the latter in the '70s.
He's been around, and the experience shows.
The whole album comes across with the cool confidence of a person who has nothing to prove but is still going for it. Not to mention that Hubbard wears his influences like a seasoned pro. On "Bad on Fords," for example, he namedrops the aforementioned rock bands but does his best impression of Lucinda Williams' drawl. And that's just one example on an album that switches gears multiple times, even as Hubbard keeps his foot on the gas pedal.
He may knock the rock around like he does his Chevys and Fords, but Hubbard gets his message across like he knows how to handle your ears just right.