Ray Wylie Hubbard: Singer, Songwriter… Author?
Photograph by Andrzej Pilarczyk
When legendary Texas troubadour Ray Wylie Hubbard rambles into The Hangar in Troy on Saturday night (October 24), fans will notice something brand spankin’ new and different on his merch table – a book.
Yes, hot on the heels of his new album, The Ruffian’s Misfortune (which was praised by American Songwriter as “a lean, mean set that wraps up in just over a half hour but whose raw reverberations last long after”), the acclaimed singer-songwriter penned his memoir “A Life … Well, Lived,” which traces his remarkable journey from folk gypsy to outlaw country upstart to wizened architect of grit ’n’ groove.
“It just kind of fell into place,” Hubbard explains, noting that the whole book took him the better part of two years to complete, with good friend and music writer Thom Jurek earning a “with” credit on the cover for his invaluable input not just as editor but as a sounding board and cheerleader. “I wrote every word in it, and I don’t think he really changed anything at all,” Hubbard continues, “but I don’t think I would have finished it without his encouragement, which is why I wanted to give him more than just an ‘edited by’ credit.”
The genesis of the book began with a simple email to Jurek. “We were emailing, and I wrote him some story about when Willie Nelson kidnapped me,” says Hubbard, briefly recounting a night somewhere back in his “honky-tonk fog” days when Nelson’s road manager Poodie Locke and drummer Paul English pounded on his Dallas door at 3am and abducted him for a bus run up to Milwaukee for a beer festival. They didn’t even give Hubbard time to pack a bag; English told him he could “borrow Willie’s toothbrush.”
And then Hubbard was off and writing – impossibly wild (but true) tales, some old, some new, some not so much stories as just random (but still funny and/or insightful) stream-of-conscious musings from the road.
Like his new album, “A Life … Well, Lived,” is conpact – lean and mean. “I really like the size of it, that it seems small,” he says of his tome’s svelte 174 pages (including the terrific afterword penned by his wife Judy). Although Hubbard’s a voracious reader and an avowed Stones fan, he admits he found the sheer heft of Keith Richards’ own “Life” a tad imposing. “But Dylan’s ‘Chronicles,’ on the other hand — that’s a great size and what I aimed for. I didn’t want to pad it just for the sake of padding it; I wanted to get in there, get to the punchline and get to the next chapter. So it feels like a real book, but it’s … you know, portable.
“And,” he adds, “there’s pictures in it!”
WHO: Ray Wylie Hubbard
WITH: The Grahams
WHERE: The Hangar, Troy
WHEN: 8pm on Saturday (October 24)
HOW MUCH: $20 in advance; $25 at the door
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