“It tells of underage cigarette smoking, teenage drinking, taverns, Irish poets, a young gambler, a bordello, a woman named Olivia May, love, unfaithfulness, social disease, opiate addiction, mercury chloride, an accidental death, a suicide, and a tormented ghost.” That’s how Ray Wylie Hubbard described “The White Rose Bouquet,” which, despite its cast of characters and sinister depictions, is not his debut as a crime novelist. “Oh yeah, it’s a ballad,” Hubbard explained.
“The White Rose Bouquet” appears on Hubbard’s sixteenth studio album, Tell the Devil I’m Getting There as Fast as I Can, out August 18. It’s a ballad, all right—and even a love ballad at that—but it’s void of any of the hallmark country tenderness, veering instead toward the darker depths of Hubbard’s songwriting. Sparse and somber, Hubbard’s story unfolds over a lithe lick picked on an acoustic guitar, with 70-year-old Hubbard’s gruff, road weary vox working as the perfect narrator.
Listen to “The White Rose Bouquet,” premiering exclusively on Texas Monthly, below.