Ray Wylie Hubbard – Co-Starring Too

Ray Wylie Hubbard – Co-Starring Too

Ray Wylie Hubbard – Co-Starring Too For those that enjoy well-written lyrics with a bit of a bite and insight, this is an album and artist worth exploring.

Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – The musical backing is varied and interesting on each track, and the addition of different vocalists leavens the mixture.  For those that enjoy well-written lyrics with a bit of a bite and insight, this is an album and artist worth exploring.

It’s not being too harsh to say that Ray Wylie Hubbard’s voice matches the veteran songwriter’s face, which could best be described as weathered and a little gnarled.  It’s a good job then that he knows his way around a lyric sheet and, in the course of collecting a few extra laughter wrinkles along the way, has made a lot of connections with fellow musicians, a great swathe of whom appear on this interesting collection to add some colour, evidence of the respect in which the artist is held.

RWH hadn’t blipped on my radar previously, which can be a good thing; you can listen with fresh ears, have no preconceived prejudices etc.  On the other hand, a bit of context doesn’t hurt either.  A listen to some of the back catalogue quickly established that Ray is a skilled wordsmith with a bent towards a knowing, witty rhyme.  If you haven’t heard much from him before, check out “Conversation with the Devil”, which has the following lines (between the newly arrived songwriter and the Lord of the Underworld):

“Well it looked like I was going to be stuck here as far as I can tell, I thought I might as well suck up, you know, what the hell, I said, you know that song that Charlie Daniels did, about how you went down to Georgia and played fiddle against that kid, he said, yeh, it broke my heart but what are you gonna do? To tell you the truth, I thought your solo was the better of the two.”    Clever stuff.  Has he still got it, you might ask? Thankfully, the old timer can still pull a fresh set of songs out of the bag on what is a follow up to his previous studio album “Co-Starring”, which was another set of collaborations with the great and the good of mostly the country world.

This set kicks off with “Stone Blind Horses”, a duet with the evergreen Willie Nelson, one of the few people the songwriter has to give way to on the basis of “age before beauty”.  This features some lovely pedal steel lines and cinematically sets the scene for some memorable lyrics: “Now there’s ghosts along the highway, and there’s storms out on the seas, I only hope that somewhere out in that heaven, someone is saying a prayer for me.”  “Groove” starts with a v funky mobile bass line before the singer takes the listener along the growth path of popular music, namechecking a bunch of worthies and assisted most notably by the “Shiny Soul Sisters”, who sound just like you expect them too.

“Only a Fool” rocks along propelled, appropriately (given its slightly repetitive chorus of “only a fool would disrespect a woman”), by Texas all-female band the Bluebonnets.  “Hellbent for Leather”, a duet with Steve Earle, is one of the stand-out tracks and is a classic mid-paced acoustic number with rattling call and response vocals: “Gram Parson was right about the 31st floor, the earth is shaking, I can’t take it no more, I’m heading due East hellbent for leather, I might even get the band back together”.  

Things get a bit louder with “Naturally Wild” a thrashing rocker featuring joint vocals with Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale (the gulf in vocal ranges between the two working well together) and heavy rock guitarist John 5. “Fancy Boys” is another meaty number, with the singer having a dig at the current country music scene: “In this false and soulless age we all tattoo a great white whale, blind faith and promises are hanging on a rusty nail, we all end up in Nashville, scrounging for our next meal when the Devil’s lawyer turns up, says sign here, it’s a hell of a deal”.  Vocals on this are shared with three other songwriters, Hayes Carll, James McMurty and Dalton Domino, who all seem cut from the same cloth.

Overall, the album has an upbeat, vibrant rocking vibe, none more so than displayed on “Texas Wild Side” where the Tex Mex band Los Bandoleros add some youthful energy (not to mention great vocal harmonies).  There are more guest appearances than you can shake a stick at; “Ride or Die” even has Ringo and Steve Lukather, plus the singer’s son Lucas and two other guests.  You can only hope that the studio was a decent size.  

RWH has a lot to say and puts it over well with the help of his many collaborators.  The musical backing is varied and interesting on each track, and the addition of different vocalists leavens the mixture.  For those that enjoy well-written lyrics with a bit of a bite and insight, this is an album and artist worth exploring.

Ray Wylie Hubbard – Co-Starring Too

CO-STARRING TOO TRACKLIST:
1. Stone Blind Horses (ft. Willie Nelson)
2. Groove (ft. Kevin Russell and the Shiny Soul Sisters)
3. Only a Fool (ft. The Bluebonnets)4. Hellbent for Leather (ft. Steve Earle)
5. Naturally Wild (ft. Lzzy Hale and John 5)
6. Fancy Boys (ft. Hayes Carll, James McMurtry, Dalton Domino)
7. Texas Wild Side (ft. The Last Bandoleros)
8. Till My Wheels Fall Off (ft. Wade Bowen, Randy Rogers, Cody Canada)
9. Pretty Reckless (ft. Wynonna Judd, Jaimee Harris, Charlie Sexton, and Gurf Morlix)
10. Ride or Die (ft. Ringo Starr, Lucas Hubbard, Steve Lukather, Eliza Gilkyson, Ann Wilson)
11. Desperate Man (ft. Band of Heathens)

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