Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Everyone has heard the proverb you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, I am going to add a line to that one. You can’t judge a performer by the size of the audience. Last night Ray Wylie Hubbard played Hill Country Barbeque in Washington DC. To me, it goes down in the annals as one of the most memorable evenings in a long time. Seeing him in the room of 200 (which was sold out) was better than seeing anyone else, anywhere. And the crowd knew it as well. Mr. Hubbard is a legendary performer with nearly a 50 year career.
Ray is very punctual. The ticket said the start time was 9:30 and he and the band came out at precisely 9:30. That may seem like a little thing, but to me is shows respect and reverence. An acknowledgement that our time is just as important as his. What humility! He is a very humble guy. As he told stories between songs, he interjected self-deprecating humor. It was more of a way for him to down play his many accomplishments in a clever and entertaining way. It came across as sincere and as a man without a big ego. If anyone deserves to carry around a little bit of an ego it is Ray, but he doesn’t at all. A true testament to his character.
Backing Ray were his son and guitar virtuoso, Lucas Hubbard. This wasn’t a case where the baseball coach lets his son pitch just because that’s his son. Oh no! Lucas can flat out play! I can’t think of anyone better to play Ray’s music with him. As my father gets older, I also have a special place in my heart when I see fathers and sons doing things together. Seeing them on stage choked me up a little bit. Also in the band was drummer and backing vocalist Kyle Schneider. Another tight musician who complimented Ray perfectly.
Ray and the band played for almost 2 hours! The crowd surely got their money’s worth. He played all of the songs we hoped he would play and then some. The third song out of the gate was Drunken Poet’s Dream and Ray nailed it.
He played Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother towards the end of the show and told a funny story about the song that happened that very night. Some people prior to the show asked Ray if he was going to play it and he stated he doesn’t play it every night. Apparently, the people stated that if they didn’t hear it, they would be disappointed. So Ray brought up a story where he saw Bob Dylan and the one song he wanted to hear was Masters Of War and Dylan didn’t play it. Well he didn’t think Bob played it. That was when Dylan was going through his phase where most of his songs performed live were unrecognizable. And the crowd roared.
Sometimes you don’t always know when a moment is special until after it occurs. Luckily, I knew this evening was exceptional as it was unfolding and was able to savor every moment. I wanted to have that evening etched in my memory in perpetuity. For once I succeeded. It wouldn’t have been possible without Ray Wylie Hubbard and his fine band.