Ray Wylie Hubbard
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Feb. 4, 2005
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Delirium Tremolos (Philo/Rounder)
You know it's gonna be another good year for Austin music when one of the first albums out of the chute is Ray Wylie Hubbard's finely crafted and well-conceived Delirium Tremolos. This is no surprise to longtime fans or those who discovered the Wimberley outlaw in the wake of 1991's career turnaround, Lost Train of Thought. Hearkening on the folk tradition of recordings with equal parts originals and covers, Hubbard makes exquisite choices of both. What's unusual about DT isn't that such an accomplished songwriter should even bother doing covers, but that Hubbard guests the authors he covers. Eliza Gilkyson and Mark Andes' devastating "The Beauty Way" opens with Hubbard inhabiting the marvelously bittersweet song of artistic disillusionment until Gilkyson herself chimes in and the two melt together. Stunning appearances include Patty Griffin ("Rock and Roll Gypsies"), Kimmie Rhodes ("Torn in Two"), Bob Schneider and Slaid Cleaves ("This Mornin' I Am Born Again"), and Jack Ingram on the righteous "Dallas After Midnight." The nonvocal contributions are no less stellar: Producer Gurf Morlix wrote "Torn in Two" with Cleaves' collaborator Rod Picott. Ian McLagan's Hammond swells on David Wiffen's "Drivin' Wheel," famously covered by Tom Rush and the Cowboy Junkies. In Hubbard's veteran hands, it stirs ashes of long-dead relationships and touches the smoky memory of old love. Hubbard closes the album in the cold, hard "Come Together" groove of James McMurtry's "Choctaw Bingo." The song is a naked cousin to Gilkyson's "Ballad of Yvonne Johnson," and no less provocative in lyric and sentiment. If there was ever any doubt left about Ray Wylie Hubbard's place in the highest ranks of (Texan) songwriters, it's been banished by this ultimate tribute.