Being a folkie ain't easy. You demand the attention of your audience so you can play songs you may or may not have written, and in exchange, if you perform them honestly enough, you leave listeners with the impression they're yours regardless. That's the pleasure and the mystery of Delirium Tremoloes, the umpteenth album by Ray Wylie Hubbard. It includes only three of his own songs, and yet, once the material is filtered through his weary, ragged rode-hard-put-up-wet twang-soaked voice, he makes them all sound too real to be made up or borrowed.
He speaks of "the Sangre de Cristos" so intimately, while waxing his way poetically through Eliza Gilkyson and Mark Andes' "The Beauty Way", that you just know he grew up in northern New Mexico. Similarly, his own "Dallas After Midnight", a story-song about robbing a liquor store done as a duet with Jack Ingram, is told so vividly I can visualize a parking lot illuminated by fluorescent lighting on a hot August night without even trying. When he says "There ain't nothin' that I like better than drivin' on hard concrete," I don't doubt him for a second. He's lived inside that head, even if he didn't hold the gun.
Ray Wylie knows the white trash Okie lifestyle, ably demonstrated on his rendition of the James McMurtry composition "Choctaw Bingo". Same goes for Woody Guthrie's timeless "This Mornin' I Am Born Again". If Hubbard has never talked in tongues on a Sunday, he's been around enough people who do to articulate the experience. Maybe that's because he's gotten so lowdown with the excesses of a Saturday night -- as he effectively relates on "Cooler N Hell", co-written with Cody Canada -- that he intimately understands the need to get right with God.
Even if he didn't write all the songs this time around, Hubbard leaves he impression he's lived them. And that, my friend, is what a real folkie is all about.