Book Review: The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wylie Hubbard

Brian T. Atkinson

The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wylie Hubbard

This past July, Ray Wylie Hubbard finally debuted on the Grand Ole Opry stage at age 72, an honor that felt absurdly long overdue. Then again, the iconoclast Wimber­ley songwriter has yet to play his own set on Aus­tin City Limits, so perhaps there's still plenty of proper acknowledgment due for Hubbard's influential career. In that regard, Brian Atkin­son's new collection of interviews with artists discussing the troubadour's impact adds to the conversation. The wide-ranging roll call of artists offering reflections, from early champions like Jerry Jeff Walker and Bobby Bare to acolytes like Hayes Carll and Cody Canada, plays like the tribute reel introducing a Lifetime Achieve­ment Award: flattering, sometimes amusing, but offering little insight or substance. Messenger reads more as extended liner notes for Atkinson's co-produced Hub­bard tribute album of the same name. The exceptions come from the songwriter's wife and son, Judy and Lucas, and times when fellow artists get personal about Hubbard's mentorship, from Troy Campbell's road to sobriety to young kickers rising in the dirt scene. Those moments are sadly scant amid redundant transcripts recalling the first time someone heard "Up Against the Wall (Red­neck Mother)" or "Snake Farm."

The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wylie Hubbard

by Brian T. Atkinson
Texas A&M University Press, 272 pp., $28

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Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jerry Jeff Walker, Bobby Bare, Hayes Carll, Cody Canada, Judy Hubbard, Lucas Hubbard

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