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Ray Wylie Hubbard

Snake Farm – 2006 (Sustain)

Reviewed by Brian T. Atkinson

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CDs by Ray Wylie Hubbard

Talk about a perfect album title. "Snake Farm" - a couple planets removed from Hubbard's cosmic cowboy recordings of '70s - sounds exactly like you'd imagine: swampy, dirty, groovy and dangerous to an impossible degree. "Snake farm, it just sounds nasty," Hubbard sings on the title track. "It pretty much is/Snake farm, it's a reptile house/Snake farm...eeeeewww."

There are many moments of transcendence packed into this phenomenal CD, but none encapsulates Hubbard more than "Mother Hubbard's Blues." The song highlights two of the themes that continually run throughout the disc - tension between spirituality and organized religion and the delicate balance of a seeker learning to find truths closer to home. And it's light-hearted at just the right times, too: "I've got two nickels and a paradigm/It ain't spelled right, but it rhymes."

Hubbard credits Stevie Ray Vaughan, who helped him kick booze almost 20 years ago, with saving his life. "Snake Farm" shows that he also learned from Austin's favorite son how to completely pour his heart and soul into the blues. Hubbard might be forever remembered for penning "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother," but this is what should define his legacy. This is his masterwork.