Ray Wylie Hubbard's latest is short on the lighthearted moments that dotted his previous outings, but long on gritty, poetic imagery.
Sung in the Oklahoma native's trademark craggy style, the 10-song set utilizes the same laidback observational tone that characterizes John Prine's best work. This is especially true of the botched liquor store robbery essayed in "Dallas After Midnight," the bittersweet music career dues ditties "The Beauty Way" and "Rock'n'Roll Gypsy's." Further, Hubbard's own "Dust of the Chase," darkly satirizes the current poker craze in Warren Zevon style.
Since Hubbard employs a rather spare sound, the guest stars add important sonic color. Cody Canada of Cross Canadian Ragweed helps transform "Cooler'n'Hell" from a litany of earthly pleasures into a snappy rocker. Kimmie Rhodes ("Torn in Two") and Patty Griffin ("Drivin' Wheel") bring a satisfying mutual perspective to the heartbreak songs. Along with Eliza Gilkyson and Bob Schneider, they fashion glorious southern gospel atmosphere for the Woody Guthrie penned "This Morning I Am Born Again."
The finest collaboration comes via James McMurtry on "Choctaw Bingo," a shocking, yet amusing paean to a white trash family reunion. Brimming with wry perspective and a savvy roots music groove, alt.-country aficionados will surely dig this disc.