Ray Wylie Hubbard

The 2002 Kerrville Folk Festival was rolling merrily along with the usual outdoorsy overlap of sincere folk songs, silly campfire hootenannies and late-night avant-gardism. Then on the deal's final weekend, Ray Wylie Hubbard came as a thief in the night.

Up against the wall, pal -- Ray Wylie stole the show, stole the pavilion, and stole the festival's yuppie-hippie heart with a main stage set of deep-thicket down-in-the-mud evil-doing salvation-seeking country blues, the likes of which he's been doing for Philo Records lately, plus a bagful of hilarious stories taller than Big Tex himself that reminded you oh yeah we're in Texas and here's this shadow over all the music that arrived in these hills from whatever universe they came from, like real cool college towns and far out foreign countries, and in that shadow is the savior of our very own primordial, rawboned, forgotten twang.

Or as Mr. Ray sings in his latest Redneck Mother-ish rant Screw You, We're from Texas: "Screw you, we're from Texas. Got it? That's s-c-r-e..."

Now, he might not be as, uh, rustic when he blows into McGonigel's Mucky Duck this Saturday, it being a listening establishment of fine ales and bookshelf wallpaper, but if I were in town, which I'm not and for which I'm sure regretful due to this very reason, that's where I'd park my sins, drinking up all those stories and songs and that hellcat jive straight from the Texas yarn-spinning, guitar-picking tradition. You might get a dose of messy gutbucket slide and wayward backbeats and devil-wailing yowls. Between the sacred and the profane -- this is where that shadow lies, by the way -- you'll get tales of preachers and criminals and prophets and whores and black cat bones and crap games in the back room and sanctified guitarslingers and Port Aransas dope dealers and stolen horses and roosters crowing the dawn and maybe Jesus himself because that's where he's likely to be, saving Ray Wylie's sorry ass.

And if it all works out you get enough stripped-down, stunk-up, sinister honky blues to give you the chills and he heads down the road with a little coin. Money talks, even in hell. Ray Wylie said that, and he ought to know.

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Marty Racine