Album Review by Roy Peak
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Tell the Devil I'm Getting There As Fast As I Can
When someone can rewrite the first book of Genesis as a dark and slippery country blues song, I'm hooked. When someone can write an entertaining song about open D tuning—telling you how to tune your guitar and what it should sound like if you get it right—I'm just as hooked. When someone can write a song about picking up the Devil himself, ("Call me Luke," ol' Lucifer says) who's hitchhiking on the side of the road, and then regaling us with the dark and sordid tale of what happens next, I'm hooked. And when all these someone's happen to be just one person, I'm floored. This is what decades of playing the honky-tonks and back alley bars, surviving many a calamity will get you, if you're strong enough, lucky enough, and both God and the Devil are on your side.
You don't hear Hubbard's songs as much as they thump you in the chest, forcing you to sit up and pay attention. These are backwater swamp songs, run with the devil songs, god is real and holding you accountable songs, old-time barroom whiskey barrel songs, life on the road songs, and songs more real and scary than life itself.
Take the song "Lucifer and the Fallen Angels" as a fer
instance. This tune starts with the thickest, sickest,
stompiest, driving, most relentless blues beat of all time.
Black bass and swampy drums and freight-train harmonica
pulse and ooze as one, the guitar cuts and chills to the
bone, and Hubbard begins his tale which has to be true,
because as it was famously said in The Man Who Shot
Liberty Valance: "When the legend becomes fact, print
the legend," and this tale is all dark legend and old-time
religion and crossroad myths retold as a road movie with
Lucifer's minions hitchhiking, waiting for Hubbard to ride
by so they can change his life.
"And God Said" which starts out this album of deviltry and voodoo spells is a much better telling of the story of Adam and Eve than any version of the Bible I've ever read. "Spider, Snake and Little Sun" contains one of the best lines ever to describe a deep blues band: "They looked like sinister, low-key criminals," and "They'd tear the Kingston Trio to shreds!" In "House of the White Rose Bouquet" we get a sordid tale of love and drugs and crime and foolish mistakes and more pain and regret than a normal person can bear. In "Old Wolf" we find Hubbard howling his way through the song which features enough hardcore barroom characters to fuel an entire book of short stories by Denis Johnson. The title song, "Tell the Devil I'm Getting There As Fast As I Can," is a biopic of a tune with great lines: "Screaming into a mic/Playing a Strat through a Vox AC30/Gives a troublesome back/And a ringing in the ears" and "I'm loving a woman who can out cuss any man." This is the darker side of singer-songwriter, no weepy ballads, just dirt floor truths.
Hubbard is in his seventies now but shows no sign of
slowing down, which for us, is a good thing. Hubbard's blues
runs blood deep and it shows. Long may he run from, with,
and to the devil.
If you require a few YouTube videos to see what Hubbard is like, here ya go:
"Tell the Devil I'm Getting There as Fast as I Can"https://youtu.be/RTbvf3a56UM
"Lucifer and the Fallen Angels"https://youtu.be/QFP95gbqyOg
YouTube also has a few live videos of Hubbard playing solo or with his band performing some of his older material, which is also well worth checking out!