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Longtimer still lights up country scene

Ray Wylie Hubbard creates buzz as he prepares to bring his musical prowess and lyrical depth to Huntington Beach.

February 03, 2014|By Michael Miller
  • Ray Wylie Hubbard, a country-rock singer, will play at Don the Beachcomber on Feb. 8.
Ray Wylie Hubbard, a country-rock singer, will play at… (Todd Wolfson )

Ray Wylie Hubbard likes to play with punctuation. A few years ago, he released an album title with two periods, a colon and a set of parentheses, and as he prepares to stop in Huntington Beach, he's at work on an autobiography whose title can work as a self-endorsement or an admission of defeat.

Spoken out loud, it's "A Life Well Spent." But look at it on the book cover, and it reads "A Life. Well, Spent."

So has the country singer's life been well spent, or is he, well, spent? Hubbard leans toward the former.

"I feel very, very fortunate, you know?" the Texas resident said last week in a phone interview. "As an old cat out there gigging and still writing and producing records, I feel that I'm still valid as far as a songwriter — you know, that I'm not a nostalgia act.

"I'll do some of the old songs, but I'm still writing and putting out records, producing records. So, yeah, I'm not done yet."

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On the other hand, if Hubbard's life is indeed, well, spent, at least he was an eclectic shopper. Over his 40-year career, he's shared bills with Willie Nelson and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, penned the country classic "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother," curated the annual Grit 'n Groove Fest in Texas and recorded with Ringo Starr. And if he's working now as an independent troubadour rather than a major-label stadium act, he relishes the freedom.

On Saturday, Hubbard will bring his latest tour to Don the Beachcomber, performing in a minimalist combo with drummer Kyle Schneider. (Jonathan Tyler, a friend of Hubbard's, will open.) His son, Lucas, who sometimes plays guitar for him, will be in Colorado for a gig of his own, but the show will still be a family affair in part: Hubbard's wife, Judy, serves as his manager.

For that matter, she serves as his label executive. Since 2010, the couple have released two albums on their own Bordello Records — "A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C)" and "The Grifter's Hymnal" — and plan a third for release in early 2015. The autobiography, which Hubbard hopes to finish within a month, doesn't have a publisher lined up yet, but he may put it out himself.

That may fulfill the words of AllMusic.com critic Thom Jurek, who wrote about Hubbard's last album, "His D.I.Y. aesthetic would make a punk rocker proud."

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