If the mark of a great songwriter is having A-level artists record your compositions for five decades, consider Ray Wylie Hubbard at the top of the tunesmith heap. In addition to being a genre-bending artist in his own right, RWH’s songs have been recorded by a motley crew of luminaries, including Jerry Jeff Walker (“Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother”), Cross Canadian Ragweed (“Wanna Rock & Roll”), Whiskey Myers (“Die Rockin'”), Hayes Carll (“Drunken Poet’s Dream), Pat Green “(Sweet Revenge”), Eric Church (“Desperate Man”), and more.
Hubbard, 75, is showing no signs of resting on his résume. On March 18, RWH released a new album, Co-Starring Too. The 11-song offering features a bevy of groove-inducing collaborations, including Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Ringo Star, Wynonna Judd, Hayes Carll, Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, Cody Canada, and more.
1. ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ – Bob Dylan
Ray Wylie Hubbard: I played this song over and over. And each time in my mind I became cooler because I did. I threw away the button-down shirts and got some rough-out cowboy boots and was “the vagabond who’s rapping at your door” and I was gonna “strike another match, go start anew.” And I did.
2. ‘Black Sheep Boy’ – Tim Hardin
Ray Wylie Hubbard: Once again, I so identified with the singer in the song: “That the black sheep can wear the golden fleece and hold a winning hand.” No matter how uncool I really was, when I played this, I was Steve McQueen jumping the fence on a motorcycle in The Great Escape. Empowering to the highest heaven.
3. ‘Stagger Lee’ – Mississippi John Hurt
Ray Wylie Hubbard: After I learned to play this, I turned into “bad man, bad man, mean ol’ Stagger Lee.” Hmm . . . sense some songs building a personality here?
4. ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ – The 13th Floor Elevators
Ray Wylie Hubbard: I saw 13th Floor Elevators play very early on at a sorority house at Arlington State College. They were fire stolen from the gods and melted everyone in front of them. Wasn’t no band cooler.
5. ‘As the Crow Flies’ – Tony Joe White
Ray Wylie Hubbard: This groove burrowed its way into my very soul, stood up on its hind legs, shook me and said, “This is the closest you ever gonna get to being baptized in the Holy Spirit unless you get dunked in the muddy boggy river by a Pentecostal preacher. Can you dig it?” I stammered, “I dig it,” and I still do. A groove so solid, you could hammer nails with it.