Texas Concert For Conservation at Sam Houston Race Park, 5/18/2013

Texas Concert For Conservation Featuring Dwight Yoakam, Robert Earl Keen, Hayes Carll & Ray Wylie Hubbard Sam Houston Race Park May 18, 2013

If I wanted to make a dopey analogy, which I'm going to do anyway, I'd say Texas' coastal waters and our wry but soulful singer-songwriters are two of this state's most precious natural resources. Lucky for us, both seem to be renewable too -- up to a point.

Dwight Yoakam, Robert Earl Keen, Hayes Carll and Ray Wylie Hubbard are all busy guys who hardly ever stop touring. They certainly didn't have to waive whatever fee each one commands to help out the Coastal Conservation Association's fight to preserve Texas' coastal ecosystem, particularly on a Saturday night, but there they were at Saturday's second annual Texas Concert for Conservation, none of them visibly phoning it in as performers at such charitable hootenannys are often wont to do.

It was a beyond-pleasant evening even before Lyle Lovett -- who can't live more than 20 miles from Sam Houston Race Park, as the crow flies -- showed up to sing "hey hey" a few times on his old Texas A&M buddy Robert Earl Keen's "That Buckin Song."

Hubbard kicked off the show at about 5:45 p.m. in a talkative mood, with introductions to almost every song that amounted to standup routines. The one about his grandfather selling his old guitar to Hubbard from the old man's deathbed - not giving it to him - was probably the best. "I'm an acquired taste," he said.

That may be true, but Hubbard's sinewy, sensual songs are easy to warm up to, especially considering his son Lucas will probably be a first-rate Texas blues guitarist before he can legally buy booze. (He's practically there already.)

His avuncular dad was definitely playing up his "not my crowd" act, but by the time Hubbard closed with "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother," most of the grayer people around me were singing along, as were many of the younger folks. Then Hubbard let the crowd take over the song completely, and it went straight into a ditch. Que sera, sera.

Now seems like a good time to mention that one of the most endearing things about Hubbard and the two acts who followed him Saturday is the air of perpetual bemusement they radiate, like the only way they could be happier up there on the stage were if they were scratching their balls. Certainly Carll continues refining what he learned about being laid-back from "Drunken Poet's Dream" co-author Hubbard, and polishing his scruffy brand of mellow to a most agreeable sheen.

Of all Saturday's artists, Carll may have the most direct connection to the CCA's work -- though Keen, Mr. "Five Pound Bass," might have something to say about that -- due to all the time he spent gigging around the Gulf Coast, like, almost in the Gulf of Mexico at Bolivar Penisula dives like Bob's Sports Bar. Sadly, Bob's and a few of his other Bolivar haunts were wiped out by Hurricane Ike, but Carll's wistful affection for those places was obvious in his voice as well as the lyrics in songs like "I Got a Gig."

Interestingly, Carll brought the Warren Hood Band as his backing group Saturday, sprucing up his shaggy-dog sound with some frisky Western swing. Young Warren, son of late Austin music legend Champ (also a fiddler), really went to town on "The Lovin' Cup," "Hard Out Here," "Wild as a Turkey," and a few others; luckily for us, Hood and his band will be at Cactus Music and the Mucky Duck June 29.

Otherwise Carll left a little room for some yuks on "One Bed, Two Girls and Three Bottles of Wine" and rocked the joint with the subterranean homesick blues of "KMAG YOYO" and "Stomp and Holler." Also, by slowing down "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" to half-speed, he increased its poignancy tenfold.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray