Black Music Matters Festival

Ray Wylie Hubbard

Eternal and Lowdown – 2001 (Philo/Rounder)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

As with his two previous releases "Crusades of the Restless Knights" (1999) and "Dangerous Spirits" (1997) Texas singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard's latest explores the fine line between sin and redemption.

In "Sleep of the Just" the singer tells of how a guilty conscience for waking deeds invades his sleep, and with "Weevils" Hubbard expresses a fear of retribution ("Weevils in my cotton, crows in my corn/You say my redeemer wears a crown of thorns").

The ballad "Didn't Have a Prayer" deals with Hubbard's replacing dependency on alcohol with spirituality, and "Sugar Cane" is a variation on the crossroads myth. Hubbard is also able to have a little fun with the talking blues tune "Joy Ride," and with the traditional blues song "Black Dog." Producer Gurf Morlix (electric and acoustic guitar, bass, mandolin) leads the way instrumentally. Morlix is equally adept at country licks ("Three Days Straight"), acoustic blues ("Sugar Cane") or blues-rock ("Joyride"). Other notables are Ian McLagen on organ and Rick Richards on drums and percussion.

With the combination of Ray Wylie Hubbard's brilliant lyrics and the instrumental prowess of Gurf Morlix "Eternal and Lowdown" is a powerful album.