Book Review: The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wylie Hubbard
Brian T. Atkinson
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Dec. 6, 2019
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 Hubbardby Brian T. Atkinson
Texas A&M University Press, 272 pp., $28