Leading figure of the 1970s progressive country movement, singer/songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard will pay a visit to downtown Grass Valley during a special Center for the Arts performance Feb. 7. Hubbard is best known for authoring the song, “Up Against the Wall (Redneck Mother).”
For his most recent release, “The Grifter’s Hymnal,” Hubbard aimed for a sound reminiscent of some of his favorite 1960s rock bands, such as Small Faces, Rolling Stones and Buffalo Springfield. He nails the groove and attaches his own signature ragged-but-right vocals and lyrical wits that are purely his own.
“The Grifter’s Hymnal” features Beatle Ringo Starr, who contributed vocals, guitar, handclaps and shakers to the album’s cover song, his own, “Coochy Coochy.” Starr has been a Hubbard fan since hearing his 2006 album, “Snake Farm.” Starr invited Hubbard to his home in Los Angeles for an all-star birthday celebration at Radio City Music Hall.
“I’m a grifter — I figured if I did a Ringo Starr song and sent it to him, maybe he’d sing on it,” Hubbard said.
“The album really does have a lot of attitude. We made it to play loud and I think the sonic quality of it is just beautiful. Even if you don’t like the singer or the songs, you’ll like the way it sounds,” Hubbard added.
Hubbard is a voracious reader and seeker and draws as much inspiration from the likes of poet Rainer Maria Rilke as he does from Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb.
Born Nov. 13, 1946, in Soper, Okla., Hubbard and his family relocated to Dallas during the mid-1950s. There he learned to play guitar and fell in with the wild and wooly cosmic outlaw Texas country scene of the 1970s. Befriended by the likes of Jerry Jeff Walker and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Hubbard later formed a Three Faces West, a trio that regularly performed at the Outpost Pub in Red River, N.M. The musical hotbed was frequented by the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Bill and Bonnie Hearne.
After the dissolution of Three Faces West, Hubbard toured the Southwestern coffeehouse circuit as a solo act before forming the short-lived group Texas Fever. Upon returning to Red River, Hubbard rekindled his friendship with Jeff Walker, who recorded his most famous tune, “Up Against the Wall (Redneck Mother),” on his seminal 1973 album “¡Viva Terlingua!” Hubbard gained instant cult status within progressive country circles with the success of the album.
Simultaneously, Hubbard organized a new backing band dubbed the Cowboy Twinkies, considered by many to be the first “cowpunk” band. Regular set lists of the Cowboy Twinkies included everything from Merle Haggard songs to a show-stopping cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown.” The band’s controversial style was met with resistance from both country and rock circles.
The band moved to Nashville to record its debut album on Warner Bros. Records, “Ray Wylie Hubbard & the Cowboy Twinkies.”
Hubbard resurfaced in 1978 with a Willie Nelson version of “Redneck Mother.”
Hubbard toured constantly and recorded sporadically throughout the rest of the ’70s and ’80s, but it wasn’t until he stumbled out of his “honky-tonk fog” and into sobriety that his career as a songwriter’s songwriter began in earnest with 1994’s “Loco Gringo’s Lament.” A steady stream of recordings was made in the past two decades.
His Grass Valley appearance will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St. in Grass Valley.
Tickets are $20 for members, $22 for nonmembers and are available at the Center Box Office, 530-274-8384, ext. 14, BriarPatch Co-op or online at http://.thecenterforthearts.org.
For information about Hubbard, go to http://raywylie.com.