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Ray Wylie Hubbard

A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment – 2010 (Bordello)

Reviewed by J. Thanki

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CDs by Ray Wylie Hubbard

In case the album cover - on which he's clutching a sword and his own severed head - didn't tip you off, Ray Wylie Hubbard's newest release is a little on the gritty side. Both cover and album are inspired by a quote from 13th century Persian poet Rumi, which states "Behead yourself. Dissolve your whole self into vision: become seeing, seeing, seeing." What Hubbard seems to be seeing here isn't too pretty, but it sure sounds good.

On his first album since 2006's Snake Farm, (he's been busy writing a film script during the interim), Hubbard's up to his usual mix of country and blues, masterful in its stripped down simplicity - using cookware as percussion on Pots and Pans, for example. The clever lyrics, delivered with a world weary rasp, range from highly literate ponderings on blues music to guitar geek talk (both on Down Home Country Blues). Dark imagery pervades the second half of the album on Every Day is the Day of the Dead, Opium and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; combined with thumping drums and bluesy guitar, the result is downright primal.

Add the handclapping gospel of Whoop and Hollar (sic), and a rough-edged version Drunken Poet's Dream a song he wrote with Hayes Carll that appeared on Carll's "Trouble in Mind," and you've got a record that may not be easily definable, but it's well worth a listen or 2. Or 20.