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A Country Music Outlaw, Resurrected

Ray Wylie Hubbard became a sort of Bard of the beer-joint jukebox in the '70s.
Ray Wylie Hubbard became a sort of Bard of the beer-joint jukebox in the '70s.

With his mane of gray hair and his purple John Lennon sunglasses, Ray Wylie Hubbard looks like one part Eastern mystic, two parts desert prophet — and not at all like someone who wrote one of the most durable honky-tonk anthems of the last 40 years. Although "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother" made Hubbard a sort of Bard of the beer-joint jukebox back in the '70s, his work has matured considerably. He thanks a sobered-up Stevie Ray Vaughan for helping him get clean and serious about his music, and over the past 20 years, Hubbard has become one of roots music's most revered songwriters.

On his new album Snake Farm, Hubbard serves up a mostly greasy plateful of growling, country-fried rhythm and blues, heavy on themes of sin and the South. But its an exception to this mix, a soulful neo-gospel re-working of a late-'90s original called "Resurrection," that best illustrates why Hubbard is regarded a musical force nearly four decades after he first established himself as one of country music's finest outlaws.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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David Brown
David Browne is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone and the author of Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth and Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Spin and other outlets. He is currently at work on Fire and Rain, a book that will track the lives and careers of The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young during the pivotal year of 1970.