The Austin Chronicle

Live Shots

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, July 20, 2001, Music

Ray Wylie Hubbard

Texas Union Theatre, July 13

Over the course of the past 10 years, Wimberley's Ray Wylie Hubbard has released a series of albums that prove him to be one of the finest singer-songwriters of our day. For the CD release celebrating his best effort yet, Eternal and Lowdown, two long sets demonstrated Hubbard's mastery as both a songsmith and performer. With the capable help of Eternal's producer, Gurf Morlix, who shifted between bass and slide guitar, Jeff Plankenhorn, who swapped places with Morlix and added some delicious dobro, Eamon McLoughlin, who almost stole the show on fiddle and mandolin, and steadfast drummer Rick Richards, Hubbard brought his songs to life in a way that was moving and entertaining, and left a packed house shouting for more. For the uninitiated, Hubbard's shows can be slightly disorienting. His between-song commentary is often hilarious -- he could pursue a career as a stand-up comic if this songwriter thing doesn't work out -- while the tone of a great deal of his music is somber and serious. Still, Hubbard and friends mixed it up to great effect. "Last Train to Amsterdam" was a highlight, McLoughlin's fiddle solo driving the song to unexpected heights. Of the new songs, the gambler's ode "Mississippi Flush," the Dylanesque ode to sobriety "Three Days Straight," and the haunting "Sugar Cane" stood out for their intriguing wordplay and some interesting musical interplay. Toward the end of the second set, Hubbard pulled off a medley of sorts, built around the aptly titled "Wanna Rock & Roll," which included snippets of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and Muddy Waters' "Baby Please Don't Go." It proved Hubbard and crew were enjoying themselves to the fullest, and with the audience urging them on to an energetic finish, it was a moment of pure magic, the type that occurs all too infrequently these days.

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