Ray Wylie Hubbard stepped on stage Saturday night in Oklahoma City to the warm welcome from the Tower Theatre audience. It wasn’t a sold out crowd, but the anticipation, respect and the acknowledgement of such was certainly present and accounted for.
Often Hubbard performs with a band featuring his son Lucas, but on this night we were treated to a more stripped down duo performance. Hubbard explained that his son had simply gotten a better paying gig before introducing the impressive Kyle Snyder on drums. Snyder employed some fascinating drum type pads, which he utilized to produced bass notes to help round out the duo’s sound.
The opening salvo of “Rabbit” and “Snake Farm” was a rollicking perfect example of the complex beauty of Hubbard’s art. Managing to fully engage the audience while exploring the root of each song further musically than the recorded versions. Listen closely, and you’d get a different lick here, or a unique tempo change there. Hubbard is a master of showmanship, but never comes across as arrogant or flashy. To the contrary and more often than not, Hubbard relies on self-depreciating humor quite effectively. Not taking oneself too seriously certainly allows the focus to remain where it really should, the songs themselves. Songs like “Drunken Poet’s Dream,” a masterful tale that was co-written with Hayes Carll. Or, the recent gem, “Tell the Devil I’m Gettin’ There as Fast as I Can”. Hubbard even treated us with a short reading from his autobiography, “A Life…Well, Lived.”
As the set wound down, Hubbard wound up the crowd with the one-two punch of “Up Against the Wall,” “Redneck Mother” and “Choctaw Bingo.” It struck me more than a bit funny that Hubbard’s best known song was made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker, and here he was covering one of James McMurtry’s best. Regardless, both were perfectly done, with quite the enthusiastic audience participation. Though, as Hubbard humorously pointed out, as a whole, the audience needed to invest in a metronome and a pitch pipe. Whether by purpose, or mistake, Hubbard closed things out with a second version of “Snake Farm” that I dare say was better than the earlier version. Hubbard regaled the OKC audience on this night with what was effectively a songwriter’s masterclass. I can’t wait till he rolls through town again. Information on Ray Wylie Hubbard including tour dates can be found here: http://raywylie.com/
Opening for Hubbard this evening was the enchanting Bonnie Montgomery. Montgomery hails from Arkansas, and was accompanied by the simply magnificent Mario Monterosso on guitar. Stripped down duos seemed to be the order of the night, and this one was right on par with the headliner. A mix of all things Americana, Montgomery’s songs blend country, bluegrass, folk, a healthy dose of honky-tonk and even a bit of classical baroque. Touring in support of her newest release, “Forever”, Montgomery and Moterosso managed to accomplish a somewhat rare feat for an opener in Oklahoma City. They managed to captivate the audience enough that conversations were kept to a reasonable din. I was unfamiliar with Montgomery and her songs, but like those around me, I found them warm and engaging. This was her first time through OKC, but I have no doubt it will be far from her last. I, along with many new fans, certainly hope she makes it back through soon anyway. More information of Bonnie Montgomery can be found here: https://www.bonniemontgomerymusic.com/
Information on Mario Monterosso is available here: http://www.mariomonterosso.com/