Sunday Night

Johnny Vector suggested Bruce Cockburn’s “If I had a rocket launcher” and I am now quite the fan. First off, the sentiments really resonate with me: there are a lot of people in the world I wouldn’t hesitate to inhume if I they had the misfortune to step in front of my big-ass truck. I cried more over the deer I hit than I’d cry over Dick Cheney, for example, and I was mostly upset about that I had to write off my Toyota Tundra. I’d cheerfully trade a truck for some of these guys…

If I had a rocket launcher!!!!

That got me thinking about music. There’s so much of it, so wonderful, so expressive, complex, simple. Most of all, so much to share. And I’m thinking “How did I never hear of this guy until tonight? This stuff is great!”

Thank you Johnny Vector! And since there may be some of you who’ve never heard of the musicians I adore, there’s a few from off the beaten track: I could go on all night, but…

Fred’s songwriting does something I like, which I try to lift into my writing (hopefully, it doesn’t drive you all nuts) – he starts going in one direction, then sort of meanders off in another, and ends up making a completely different point than you thought he was going to.

One of the best performances of that technique was (I am biassed!) my father’s goodbye lecture, which was the only one of his I ever attended. As an undergrad I avoided the entire history department because I thought it might seem inappropriate, so I never took any history classes at all, having grown up a “faculty brat.”  Anyhow, my dad did this lengthy and fascinating exposition about a French Chef De Police in pre-revolutionary Paris, who maintained a card catalog of criminals based on physiognomy – something J Edgar Hoover famously thought he’d invented…  – it took some of us in the room a while to realize that my dad wasn’t talking about policing in Paris: he had identified what he felt was a critical transition-point in the development of the modern police-state.

Ray Wylie Hubbard’s music has the same kind of looping, jagged narrative as Fred’s:

Ray’s just amazing. His ‘act’ is a weird mix of telling crazy stories and playing. His playing is great, and the stories are loopy and goofy.

And when Ray goes dark, he stays dark:

If you liked the bit above, you can go on youtube and there’s a full performance by Ray that’s just great stuff.

Bunch of years ago, Ray was playing in Little Rock, Ar, and I had a friend who lived there I thought would make a good Ray fan. So I scored some tickets in the “vip section” and asked her to save that evening because I was taking her out for some honky tonk blues. Ray was in fine form and we drank a bunch of beer and had a great time; then I had to go offload some of my ex-beer while the band took a break, and when I came back, she was gone! Looking around, I discovered she was up on stage talking to Ray. She came back: it turned out she’d invited the band to breakfast the next morning. So we had waffles and coffee with Rick the drummer and Ray and it turned out that Ray and Rick were just as cool as they sound. That was a big relief; I feel endlessly burned by finding out that musicians I love are human, all too human. Ray wears his warts on the outside.


  1. Johnny Vector says

    Never heard of Bruce Cockburn‽

    You’re one of today’s lucky 10,000! (ObXKCD)

    Also, cool! New music to enjoy! I’ll take a look at these tonight.

  2. chigau (ever-elliptical) says

    Marcus Ranum #3
    Bruce mentioned him in a gig I was at in …. a year that I heard him … somewhere
    did Wylie ever mention Bruce?

  3. Brian English says

    That first Ray Wylie Hubbard song is what I’d call blues. A propos nothing, just a quick search said he was Texas country. Further research would reveal Texas country is probably blues or something………

    The second song is in the ear of the behearer. I like the music and lyrics, but you have to let the song ‘be’ and experience it without ‘predjudice’. The story he tells in the intro sort of gives it a gravitas, if you’re already inclined to or already do like the song*. It also could be it’s all a bit corn-ball, I find …..It’s a bit like listening to Metal or whatever, from one side it’s deep, dark, plaintive, from another it’s all a bit shite (apologies to Trainspotting). I get goosebumps sometimes listening to music, sometimes I blush at enjoying the same song, which is only a teenage crie de coeur, and I left teenagehood decades ago. Although I’ll not brook a bad word about Morricone’s soundtracks for the dollar trilogy!

    De gustibus, non disputandum. I think a few more beers, and I could really get into that song. For some reason, perhaps the story he tells, and it’s acoustic sound, it reminded me a bit of this old piece of Ockerness…….

    *This is all just the dreck that pretends** to be thought in my head right now. No comment on the artistic merit of the songs, or you for enjoying them.

    **Pretend as in trying.

  4. Brian English says

    Actually, having attempted to write a few tunes back in the day. I found that lack of willingness to ‘commit’, that is, put feelings in the lyrics, makes the song just shite, as my attempts were. So, I’d rather listen to corn-ball, than hipster ironic most days. Ignore my posturing.