Ray Wylie Hubbard records live at The Kessler Theater September 5, 2013
By Chuck Cox
Ray Wylie Hubbard recording a live album at the Kessler is like peanut butter and jelly, chicken and waffles, and rum and Coke. Some things go together so well, they are destined to merge.
Hubbard, who grew up catching movies at the Kessler, first played the multipurpose venue in 2011, just as the Kessler was starting to build its reputation as one of the best listening rooms around. Hubbard went to Adamson High School with musical luminaries like B.W. Stephenson and Michael Martin Murphey as he was beginning to get into music.
Since playing the Kessler for the first time, Hubbard has made the venue a regular stop. And when it came time for him to record the second live album of his career, he knew right where he wanted to do so.
On Thursday, Hubbard played the first of two nights to be recorded for the forthcoming album and DVD. And he was greeted with a raucous crowd, those tremendous Kessler acoustics, and, of course, very familiar ground.
With the exception of him mentioning “Oak Cliff, Texas” numerous times and having his son Lucas play guitar in his band, it was a pretty normal Hubbard show. Which is to say it was outstanding.
Hubbard, whom I saw for the first time way back in 1995, is an absolute showman, with the musical chops to back it up. He is quick with a joke and magnificent at telling stories. Most of his songs are cool narratives about his life experiences, but he can also throw you a curveball or two from time to time.
After an opening set by Shurman’s Aaron Beavers and Mike Therieau, Hubbard took the stage to massive applause from an enthusiastic crowd. That came into play four songs into the show when Hubbard had to re-start “Down Home Country Blues” because somebody right in front of the stage was talking so loud. I have never understood people who go to concerts and talk loudly. So annoying.
But Hubbard fought through that to put on a great show, which included his standard-bearers “Snake Farm,” Mother Blues,” “Conversation With the Devil,” “Screw You, We’re From Texas,” and, of course, “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” which he penned and Jerry Jeff Walker made famous. Hearing him play “Mother Blues,” which is about a former Dallas night club, never gets old. Hubbard talked about getting to play that song on the Late Show With David Letterman back in January.
If you’re a fan of music, Hubbard, 66, is somebody you need to catch. If you’re a fan of Texas country, seeing Hubbard is mandatory.
After the first show, Hubbard said this on Twitter: “Recording went perfect tonight, so no need to play again Friday. Just kidding! About the not playing, we are..not about the perfect..it was.”
And being a part of something like that is an experience I’ll treasure.