Shortly after this album’s release, I frequently found myself on the — then — long road from Austin to San Antonio. Off to the west, just around, passed New Braunfels, maybe, there it is, the Snake Farm. Think that’s Comal County, too, just north of San Antonio proper.
It’s a “reptile house and collection,” where, I would guess, for a fee one can look at the marvels of the scaly set. I had images, just, first off, it wasn’t technically Bexar County, so I never had a place to use the images. Now there are buried in digital archives, and I can’t locate those shots easily.
So when the album was released, of course, the rent cars had radios, and New Braunfels has 92 Kay, KNBT? Think those are the call letters. I would hear various portions of the song on the radio, back when radio mattered. K-Geezer, in Austin, played it too.
Seeing it, though, and thinking there was only one hit, the title song, I passed on that album for some time. With a surfeit of angst, I picked up a copy the other afternoon, just in passing, again.
There’s a mournful, dirge-like quality to some of the songs. The “grit and groove,” or hard core grit that the artist is now famous for? About as real as it gets. Course, he’s been standing in front of audiences singing his songs for decades. As I noted before, every few years he “drops” an album, and each one is successively better, new highs, new lows, better tone, more heart? More blues. More reds, too.
Yeah, I’m a fan, but it goes deeper because the lyrics stand up over time.
“All it takes is some grains of faith,
And a few kilowatts of sweat and grace.
- Ray Wylie Hubbard, “Kilowatts” off Snake Farm
I let the music shuffle, just that album, letting bits and pieces seep in, drifting in and out, Ray Wylie’s gravel-honeyed voice, absolute economy of words, abundant wit, and touch of gospel-like sound, but just a touch, not too much.
It’s not so much gospel, as a thread of spirit woven into the material. God, in one song, lights up a cigarette, while his rival, in another song, lives in Corpus Christi, TX and the Devil smokes Salems.
More than twenty years ago?
Pretty much want a tattoo of snake eating a mouse wearing a hat that says, “Snake Farm.”