Ray Wylie Hubbard – A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C) (Music Review)

A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C) cover

Ray Wylie Hubbard - A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C)

Ray Wylie Hubbard has been around for decades, but his country-blues style has never found popular appeal. On 2010’s A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C), he seems perfectly comfortable with his place in the industry. This is the sound of an experienced, confident artist making the music he wants.

Hubbard’s sound is calm and even, singing over rhythmic, bass-heavy music that recalls the days before country and blues evolved into separate genres. His voice betrays his age, but in this genre, trading energy for soul is always worthwhile. His attitude feels perfectly authentic to his Texas home and blues influence, though it is rarely found in mainstream country. Hubbard is as likely to sing about drugs and wayward women as everyday country life, and these two sides to his persona keep the songs varied and interesting. Bridging the gap are the occasional songs celebrating the music itself (“Down Home Country Blues”) and religious tracks that go beyond the lazy cliches of the genre (“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”).

Hubbard maybe gets a little too slow when he channels the quiet country life (“Tornado Ripe” goes nowhere, and “Wasp’s Nest” is frankly boring), but that’s as close as the album comes to a misstep. It’s an easy one to forgive when he’s willing to go just as far in the opposite direction, with a couple experiments (such as a guest vocalist groaning “Cada día es la Día de los Muertos” over halting drums and electric guitar) that only work due to his laid-back attitude and the wide ground he covers.

Among the most notable songs: The title track’s dreamlike lyrics fit its name and set the tone for the album. “Loose” is an upbeat story reminiscent of John Prine that examines the word “loose” and turns it into an empowering description for a woman. “Black Wings” is a mournful dirge that hints at how important music is to Hubbard when he mixes references to specific instruments and songs in with the emotional lyrics.

A. Enlightenment shows Hubbard arguably at his peak, and makes his lifetime out of the spotlight seem like a crime. Music, life, religion and sin coexist in a string of honest songs that celebrate what country music should be.

Grade: A-

    • Bob from Oregon
    • October 18th, 2011

    Just in case you’re wondering, when it comes to RWH you’re not the only one who cares about this stuff. Great and thoughtful review on an under-appreciated roots-music hero. Hope RWH sees it. I think he’d probably say “A-? That’s pretty good, son.” Thanks for caring about this style of music!

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