Back in the early '70s, a whole bunch of college students, cosmic cowboys and Lone Star hippies were indirectly introduced to Ray Wylie Hubbard via his composition "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother." As covered by Jerry Jeff Walker, the song reigned as the shout-along, beer-drinking anthem of choice at many an off-campus pub, dance hall and country-rock festival of the era. A quarter of a century later, Hubbard has transcended that honky-tonk hell-raiser persona, however, to establish himself as an uncommonly spiritual artist, more of a musical poet and philosophical storyteller than the stoned satirist who penned the classic spoof of C&W.
Over the course of three CDs produced in the '90s, Hubbard has forged his impressive new legacy. Especially on his most recent release, Dangerous Spirits (1997's Texas Album of the Year at the Kerrville Music Awards), he emerges as an allegorical singer-songwriter who is both literate and folksy by nature. In "If Heaven Is Not a Place to Go," "The Last Younger Son," the title track and others, Hubbard alludes discreetly to lines from Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and the Bible. Yet his concise tales of characters toting knives or pistols, waiting for trains or sporting crimson dragon tattoos are as real as sweat, as palpable as Texas dust.
Mainly touring in a duo with longtime compadre Terry Ware on lead acoustic six-string, Hubbard plucks mandolin and strums guitar, narrating episodes and articulating wisdom in a manner ideally suited for a small venue.
-- Roger Wood
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Ray Wylie Hubbard performs Friday, April 2, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, at 9 p.m. Cover charge is $10. For more info, call (713)528-5999.
Earth Day -- What better way to honor dear Mother Earth than to merge with thousands of other loyal consumers for a corporate-sponsored pop rock extravaganza in an urban green space? The third annual 104 KRBE/ Enron Earth Day Festival happens all day Saturday along the banks of Buffalo Bayou, and it features music from seven bands compatible with the host radio station's Top 40 format. Headlining the 6 p.m. slot is the Canadian phenomenon-of-the-moment, Barenaked Ladies, who will likely send up some version of their megasmash single, "One Week," plus material from their latest release, Stunt.
Preceding them at 4:30 are the mind-candy rappers known as Sugar Ray, whose latest album title acknowledges they are at 14:59 in relation to the proverbial fifteen-minute allotment of fame. At 3, that trio of cool-looking dudes who metamorphosed from a New Orleans bar band into an MTV sensation will prove once again that they are Better Than Ezra. And the 2 p.m. slot offers the most recent pop breakthrough from Austin, the acoustic group Sixpence None the Richer, whose hit, "Kiss Me," was featured in the box-office moneymaker, She's All That. Kicking things off earlier in the day: the Gregg Alexander-led project dubbed New Radicals at 1 p.m., the harmony-driven foursome 98 Degrees at noon (no weather forecast intended) and local ska rockers The Suspects at 11 a.m.
On the margins, the festival promotes the Earth Day theme via exhibits by over 30 environmental organizations; it also offers an Extreme Game Zone, Kids Zone and various booths peddling food, drink, and arts and crafts. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department and the Citizens Environmental Coalition. 104 KRBE/Enron Earth Day Festival takes place Saturday, April 10, at Buffalo Bayou Park, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free parking in the Enron garage, 1400 Smith (with free METRO shuttle). Tickets: $8 (free for children under 12), available at the gate. For more info call (713)266-1000. (Roger Wood)