A Conversation With Ray Wylie Hubbard, One Of America’s All-Time Great Songwriters

Photo: Alan Messer, used with permission via publicist


Perhaps his name is unfamiliar to you, but amongst musicians, Ray Wylie Hubbard is considered one of the greatest songwriters of the past half-century.

He is indeed revered for his unique, lyrical style that drips with irony and comes across about as plainspokenly as words can be stated. In truth, however, Hubbard often examines topics that are deeply intellectual and supported by a remarkable, rootsy blends of blues, rock, country and folk music.

His knack for amusingly looking at the ugliness of humanity is well-demonstrated in my favorite Hubbard song: 1999’s “Conversation With The Devil” from his Crusades of the Restless Nights album. In one verse his sings:

“Now the murderers and the rapists they go in this fiery lake
As well as most of the politician and the cops on the take
And all the mothers who wait till they get to K-Mart to spank their kids
And instead of showing what to do what’s right
They just hit ’em for what they did
And all the daddy’s who run off and abandon their daughters and sons
Oh, anybody who hurts a child is gonna burn until it’s done”

I had the privilege of having Hubbard join us on Season 3 of The Load Out Music Podcast in advance of the release of his new record, “Co-Starring Too.” It’s his second consecutive album featuring collaborations – this time including the likes of Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Hayes Carll, Ringo Starr, Wynonna Judd, Heart’s Ann Wilson and others.

During our 30-minute conversation, we discuss his career, sobriety, his angst towards Nashville record executives, sleeping with the president of his record company and more. But we begin where it all started for Hubbard – playing bars and coffee houses in New Mexico and Texas in the late 1960s. His star ultimately rose to fame when the legendary Jerry Jeff Walker – a close friend of Hubbard’s – recorded “Up Against the Wall You Redneck Mother” on his Viva Terlingua album that was released in November 1973.

That led to Hubbard’s first album, Ray Wylie Hubbard and the Cowboy Twinkies, which was released in 1975. But the experience didn’t thrill Hubbard as one might expect. More than anything – as he discusses with me – it infuriated him as producer Michael Brovsky overdubbed the record, turning it largely into something that Hubbard did not expect nor want.

Now in his mid-70s, Hubbard is still going strong. In fact, some believe he’s at the top of his game. His poetic greatness – again, at least in my highly subjective opinion – might be best displayed in yet another refrain from “Conversation With The Devil”:

“And he said, What about all that whiskey and cocaine

I said, Well, yeah, but that’s no reason to throw me in hell

‘Cause I didn’t use the cocaine to get high

I just liked the way it smelled.”

Sheer poetic brilliance.

Sit back and enjoy a terrific conversation with Ray Wylie Hubbard, unquestionably one of the greatest American songwriters of the past half-century and our most recent guest on The Load Out music podcast.