Any short list of top Austin artists of the last decade counts Ray Wylie Hubbard in its upper reaches. Eternal & Lowdown (2001), Growl (2003), Delirium Tremolos (2005), Snake Farm (2006), one after another, the Wimberley outlaw's output bumps 'n' grinds a bluesman's disposition and the lyricism of a fascist-killing folkie. Like Lucinda Williams, every blessed bon mot Hubbard drawls sounds lowdown – and eternal. (See also 1997's Dangerous Spirits.) His first long-player since Eternal & Lowdown (another decade best) not produced by Gurf Morlix, A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment summates itself in a song, Hubbard and Hayes Carll's all-time Texas anthem "Drunken Poet's Dream," originally recorded for the latter's 2008 Lost Highway breakthrough, Trouble in Mind. Tweaked to a finer point here, including Morlix and Jeff Plankenhorn's electric guitars burning a cigarette hole through it, "Poet's" redneck oath – "I'm gonna hollar and I'm gonna scream, I'm gonna get me some mescaline. Then I'm gonna rhyme that with gasoline" – pledges "T" is for Texas and Horton Foote, not for Tennessee Williams. The title track's album-opening chant even whispers mandolin-plucked hints of "The Battle of Evermore," causing heaven's pouring "down rain and lightning bolts." Preachy "Down Home Country Blues" honks barroom, while "Pots and Pans" mattes the platter's overall Heartattack and Vine vibe. Meantime, the lead-off invocation's black sparrow returns as the ultimate bad harbinger (a crow) in "Tornado Ripe," whose harrowing "death and kindlin'" demands the good ol' "Whoop and Hollar" that follows before "Black Wings" beats a campfire dirge. Payday drain and hangover "Loose" could go, but the three closers, beginning with the two-minute sonic scratchboard of "Every Day Is the Day of the Dead," guitar and warnings in Spanish by Billy Cassis, who then helps blow Hubbard's resonator smoke in "Opium" next, hit pay dirt. "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" kicks Enlightenment/Endarkenment shut on Dustin Welch's banjo and Trisha Keefer's redemption day fiddle. Four remains a recurring number in Ray Wylie Hubbard's realm. (Ray Wylie Hubbard takes scalps at his CD release, Friday, Jan. 15, at Antone's.)
Copyright © 2020 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.