WIMBERLEY, Texas — In Ray Wylie Hubbard’s defense, maybe he had no idea that by sticking the fork in his 2015 autobiography A Life, Well … Lived, with that little joke about not wanting “to peak too soon,” he was all but guaranteeing that the book would already seem overdue for several new chapters not two years later. Not because he was in any way “done” living at the time — far from it; he’d just long since come to the enlightenment that it’s better to count one’s past and present blessings than to get too caught up in wondering if there are any more coming down the pike. As the road-wizened songwriter put it best in 2012’s “Mother Blues,” “The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well, I have really good days.”
Well, suffice it to say that Hubbard’s cup ‘o gratitude runneth over, because he had more than a few of those “really good days” all through 2016 and 2017. And though he’d be breaking his own rule to expect 2018 to follow suit, rest assured that he’s very much looking forward to at least one guaranteed great day already on his calendar: Saturday, Feb. 24. That’s the night when the famously self-effacing but duly acclaimed poet of Americana grit and groove — whose catalog of classics ranges from the irrepressible (no matter how hard he’s tried!) progressive country anthem “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” to such later-day fan favorites as “The Messenger,” “Conversation with the Devil,” and “Snake Farm” — is scheduled for induction into the Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association’s (TxHSA) Hall of Fame. This all-volunteer organization — dedicated to the cultural preservation of Texas songwriting and celebration of our exalted troubadours — offers exclusive sponsorship opportunities across a full weekend of events with details available here:
Doubtless many a fan would call Hubbard’s induction into the Hall of Fame long overdue, but certainly not the man himself: He’s just honored to be recognized by his peers as an artist worthy of joining the esteemed ranks of past inductees Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Guy Clark, and Townes Van Zandt. And although he’ll proudly be sharing the honor that night at Austin’s historic Paramount Theatre with three other worthy 2018 inductees (contemporary hit songwriter Liz Rose and the legendary late greats Mickey Newbury and Buddy Holly), Hubbard’s time in the spotlight is guaranteed to be a highlight of the star-studded evening, with the “Wylie Llama” — hero and sage Obi Wan to generations of young troubadours from Texas to Tennessee — joined onstage in performance by friends Jack Ingram, Hayes Carll, and one of the biggest names in modern country music, Eric Church (who name-dropped Hubbard in the title track of his 2015 blockbuster, Mr. Misunderstood).
Hubbard has of course shared many a stage, writing session, and jam with fellow Texas mainstays Ingram and Carll, but he’s actually only played with Church once before — back at the beginning of 2017, when Church invited him up to Dallas to join him for a song (Hubbard’s own “Screw You, We’re From Texas”) in front of a sold-out crowd at the American Airlines Center. After the concert, Hubbard called the experience an “E ticket ride at Disneyland.” A few months later, Hubbard returned the favor by inviting Church to sing with him (and Lucinda Williams!) on the title track to his own new record, Tell the Devil I’m Gettin’ There as Fast as I Can. In a glowing review of the album for England’s esteemed Mojo, writer Sylvia Simmons likened the anthem to “a young Stones riffing on Dylan’s ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ in an arena.”
Such praise has been par for Tell the Devil I’m Gettin’ There as Fast as I Can’s assertive course ever since its August release, accounting for the three solid months it spent lodged in the Top 10 of the Americana music chart. But the album’s success is hardly the only thing Hubbard’s had to feel grateful for in the past year, let alone in the past couple of months. On Halloween night, he got to take another one of those unforgettable E ticket rides when Ringo Starr invited him to join his All Star Band at Austin’s Moody Theater for a performance of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and less than a month later he got to celebrate his 71st birthday with a room packed full of his own friends and family at the Paramount. Really good days? Ray Wylie Hubbard has them in spades. And gratitude to match.
A limited number of tickets for the Feb. 24 Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association’s Hall of Fame Awards Show will go on sale via the Paramount Theater box office on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. For more information on the TxHSA, visit https://texasheritagesongwriters.com.