Warning bells sound when a folk singer straps on an acoustic guitar and harmonica and sets out to write songs about spiritual redemption, yearning, and other heavy matters. Too often, such efforts degenerate into sanctimonious dribbling. But there isn't a single sanctimonious bone in Ray Wylie Hubbard's haggard body. Life has left his bones chipped and battered, yet Hubbard makes no apologies. More importantly, he doesn't offer stifling moral lectures about how his hell raising past led him to his current state.
CRUSADES is a rewarding album because Hubbard is able to stir a few slivers of hope into the blackness. His songs are dusty hymns-prayers torn from stained pages. Hubbard is not about to let past demons and present soul-searching overwhelm his mischievous side. "Conversation With The Devil," the album's centerpiece, finds Hubbard knee-deep in Hell and engaged with Satan himself in the most freewheeling verbal sparring any folk singer has ever put to record. It's a knee slapper in the best sense of the word. The echoes of Hubbard's '70s-outlaw image were clearly fading when he began his remarkable artistic resurgence in the early '90s. They are but dim remnants here, pushed aside to give Hubbard room to make such a startling and mature record.
Entertainment Weekly (7/23/99, p.69) - "...a gem of an album that looks through a glass darkly at all matters spiritual....Feel the heat." - Rating: B+
Dirty Linen (12/99-1/00, p.92) - "...arguably among his finest [compositions] to date...still down to earth in true Ray Wylie fashion..."