Ray Wiley Hubbard – The Borderline

Ray Wiley Hubbard
The Boarderline.  Soho.  London.
Tuesday 1st August 2006

Ray Wiley Hubard & Lucas @ Borderline London UK

Ray Wiley Hubbard & Lucas @ Borderline London UK

Writing for this website has been good for me.  Being based in the UK means I miss out on some of the more interesting stuff from the US and here I get an opportunity to catch up a little.  Reading Cindy’s review of David Allen Coe is a good example which sent me straight to allofmp3 to get hold of his albums. So, armed with my newfound love of Americana, I was pleased when Jeff asked me if I would like to review Ray Wiley Hubbard at the Boarderline Club in Soho, London.  I agreed, despite vowing never to set foot in Soho again after I woke up one morning to find I was missing £300 and had only a leopard-skin thong and a photo of a naked girl with a face like a bag of slapped arses to show for it.  Damn that strip joint!  Making a mental note to stick to the remit, Dawn and I headed for Soho.

We arrived at the Boarderline early to be met by Ray’s wife Judy as he himself was finishing up his sound-check. I couldn’t help but notice that the kid on stage with Ray was considerably younger and looked more like he should be in System of a Down.  Turns out the kid was Ray and Judy’s son Lucas; and he could play too!  After some quick hello’s we set of to eat and chat at a restaurant near the club.  Getting kicked out of the local metal bar “The Crowbar” was cool, even if it was only because they have a no kids policy.  Getting kicked out of the Crowbar takes some doing!

It seems I have much to learn about Americana.  Apparently, owning Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits and knowing the words to Whichita Lineman aren’t enough to impress Ray and so he promptly set about educating me.  (I’m just getting round to looking up James McMurtry and Cross Canadian Ragweed)  I figured I should listen up, given the look on his face when I mentioned Kenny Rogers, but Ray continued to humour me, despite my faux par.  Dawn and Ray had some common ground, having both worked with Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats which seemed to restore his faith.  Inevitably the conversation soon focused on the good old rock and roll topics of snakes, tattoos and more rock and roll

The title track on Ray’s latest album “Snake Farm” honours a herper called Ramona who runs the joint.  She sounds just like my kind of girl considering we both have tattoos and a love of The Alarm. However, Ray assures me she is just a fictional character, much to my disappointment.  I was looking forward to showing her my tattoo of a python constricting a mouse, just like the one she apparently has.  Ray himself made a relatively late entrance into the world of tattooing, getting inked only recently after losing a bet with a friend.  He proudly rolled up his sleeve to show me his tattoo of a boa, similar to the ones on the cover of the Snake Farm album.  Cool ink Ray, perhaps you could post a pic on our tattoo photo forum.  I’ll show you mine if you show me yours?

The Boarderline is a smallish venue which was thankfully not over-packed for the gig.  Around a hundred people meant that we could still make our way comfortably to the bar without having to manhandle people out of the way.  We’d missed the first support, Linda McLean but arrived just in time to see Jason McNiff play his melancholy set.  I was impressed enough to buy his CD so I’ll post a review soon.  Watch this space.  Also supporting was the comical Darden Smith, again, well worth a peek for Americana fans.

At last Ray took the stage and after a brief banter and howdy, launched into his set.  As a newcomer to the genre I didn’t really know what to expect.  I’m a frequent victim of one hit wonder artists and regularly buy albums on the strength of one song, only to be disappointed by the rest of the disk.  I’d heard a few of Ray’s tracks but I couldn’t help but wonder if the rest of his material was of the same calibre.  A couple of tracks later I had my answer.  Ray sounded just like I thought he oughta and he certainly seemed to be enjoying enjoy himself as much as we all were.  With his guitar taped up with gaffer tape he cursed Delta Airlines every time he had to re-tune.    What I found really outstanding though were his lyrics.   For example, I was particularly amused by “Mississippi Flush” is apparently a winning poker hand involving “a revolver and any five cards”.  “Ruby red lips and liquid hips” is a phrase I will be using myself at some point soon too, all credits to Ray of course! 😉

I was really getting into it when Dawn crossed the floor to whisper in the ear of a pissed up couple who were talking loudly in front of the stage.  Not one to suffer fools gladly she wasn’t gonna stand this rude and off-putting behaviour.  Ray is just too nice to tell them to shut the fuck up, but Dawn is less reserved.  I remember hoping that they didn’t back-chat her cos she’d threatened to drag them out of there so fast they got whiplash.  She could and she would too!  They soon piped down and so it was on with the show.   “Crimson Dragon Tattoo” was a particular favourite of mine; especially considering it was “dedicated to Tony, a snake farmer I know!” Time for another round at the bar I thought!  “Last Train to Amsterdam” was another blinder from the set.  I’ll have to find out which CD it’s on, although I think I may just keep collecting his CD’s until I find it.

Soon it was time for the boy wonder to take the stage. Lucas stepped up with confidence and played accompaniment and a solo, finishing to tumultuous applause.  “That was for both of us you know boy!” said Ray as the applause died down.  Lucas just grinned and raised an eyebrow in that way only kids can.  The boy was far too cool and unfazed for a 12 year old.  Shit, when I was his age I was still playing marbles.  Ray looked suitably proud as they saw out the rest of the set together.  I hope the kid gets paid.  He deserved it!

The set rolled on and over me, much to my approval.  I’d come to the gig wanting to enjoy myself, but very conscious of the fact that as a rank amateur, it could all have gone over my head.  I was aware that although I thought Ray was a cool guy, this is a review site, not a fan club and so I would write my account honestly.  I’m pleased to say that Ray delivered everything I’d hoped for and more.

As a final note I’d recommend you all check out his website. http://www.raywylie.com
It’s one of the coolest sites I’ve seen and the animated story about the dog at his gig in the seventies had me pissing my pants.   Live and die rock n roll!
Snake Farm Album Review

Set List

Snake Farm
Name Droppin’
Last Train to Amsterdam
Conversation with the Devil
Mississippi Flush
Dust of the Chase
Three Days Straight
Pole Cat
Crimson Dragon Tattoo
Redneck Mother
Cooler ‘n’ Hell
Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll
The Messenger


~ by Tony's Desk on September 12, 2008.

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