This was an interesting pairing—intriguing enough to completely fill The Sellersville with both respectful and partying fans. I’m surely biased because the venue is a mere 20 minutes from home, but the Sellersville audience is as knowledgeable and warm as any, and they appreciated the insightful, gentle, melodic 45-minute set from the classy Laura Cantrell, backed by nimble mandolinist, Jimmy Ryan. Laura’s original set list was weighted more toward her recent release, No Where There from Here, but she quickly sensed the Friday night vibe and offered “The Whisky Makes You Sweeter” from her very first album, Not the Trembling Kind. “Yes, we’re going back to a few older ones,” she said. Ryan seemed even more comfortable with those tunes and her set left the crowd standing.
When the iconic Texas poet and ragged bluesman Ray Wylie Hubbard hit the stage, the audience had revved into a rowdy mood, singing along to the opening choruses and even more boisterously to the second tune, “Snake Farm.” Hubbard, with acoustic guitar and harmonica, was flanked by his 22–year-old son, Lucas, who played the Gold Top Les Paul, and drummer, Tom Snyder. Curiously enough, the trio played only two tracks from his recent chart-topping album, The Ruffian’s Misfortune, choosing instead to give the audience a sampling from his enormous catalog. Hubbard even pulled out his 38-year-old hit, “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mothers.” Mostly in a foot stomping, bluesy groove through the set, he shifted into ballads like “Count Your Blessings” and the gem, “The Messenger.” Hubbard balanced that with his witty storytelling charm, both in the banter between songs and tunes like “Name Dropping” and “Drunken Poet’s Dream,” capped by the rave-up “Down by the River” from his new album. Ever a generous spirt, RWH welcomed Cantrell and Ryan to the stage for the gospel encore, “You’ve Got to Move.” A shortened version of “Choctaw Bingo” concluded a night of good ol’ stomping and hollering. RWH would have it no other way.