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By Brian T. Atkinson
Foreword by Jerry Jeff Walker and Hayes Carll
Texas singer-songwriter Hayes Carll declared, “Ray would be at the top of the list if I were gonna read about somebody’s life.” In The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wylie Hubbard, author, journalist, and music producer Brian T. Atkinson demonstrates why Carll and so many others hold Ray Wylie Hubbard in such high regard. Atkinson takes readers into and beyond the seedy bar in Red River, New Mexico, where the incident occurred that inspired Hubbard’s most famous song, “Redneck Mother.” Hubbard tells the stories, and Atkinson enlists other musicians to expound on the nature of his abiding influence as songwriter, musician, and unflinching teller of uncomfortable truths.
Featuring interviews with well-known artists such as Eric Church, Steve Earle, Kinky Friedman, Chris Robinson, and Jerry Jeff Walker, and also mining the insights of up-and-comers such as Elizabeth Cook, Jaren Johnston, Ben Kweller, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and Paul Thorn, The Messenger makes clear why so many musicians across a wide spectrum admire Ray Wylie Hubbard. Readers will also learn why “Redneck Mother,” the song that put Hubbard on the map for most listeners, is also a curse, of sorts, in its diminution of both his spiritual depth as a lyricist and his multidimensional musical reach. As Hubbard himself says, “The song probably should have never been written, let alone recorded, let alone recorded again.. . . the most important part of songwriting is right after you write a song, ask yourself, ‘Can I sing this for twenty-five years?’”
Atkinson’s work makes a convincing case that Ray Wylie Hubbard’s truest and most lasting contributions will long outlive him. And, with a couple of good breaks, they may even outlive “Redneck Mother.”
Credit Description to Texas A&M University Press
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