Release Date: Mar 26, 2012
Record label: Bordello Records
Genre(s): Blues, Americana, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Blues-Rock, Electric Blues, Rock & Roll, Roots Rock, Acoustic Blues
Ray Wylie Hubbard’s scrappy sound contains parts of everything that have made both rock and country albums from the ‘70s withstand the test of time. Grifter’s Hymnal may have been released in 2012, but it could have been released at any point the Texan’s career, which has spanned four decades of twangy ramblings and explored everything from spiritual beliefs to contemporary tales. From the beginning of “Coricidin Bottle”—which is an empty pharmacy bottle used as a guitar slide as made famous by Duane Allman—through the rest of the 12-song album, Hubbard sticks to what he knows.
Few songwriters are as driven as Ray Wylie Hubbard; at 65, he's writing, recording, performing, producing, touring, and scoring movies, and doesn't give a damn if you don't get it. His D.I.Y. aesthetic would make a punk rocker proud: he owns his own label and publishing company. For the past decade, Hubbard's distilled his sound to its essences.
Veteran Americana swamp rockers don’t get any more grizzled or authentic than Hubbard. His 16th release is a beautifully realized and appropriately ragged work that combines his bluesy country rocking and gritty vocals with a “strip bar dirty” sound that can only be made by someone who has played dives and juke joints for over 40 years. The songs are solid but the disc is greater than the sum of its parts as it congeals around Hubbard’s confessional, often personal memories in “New Year’s Eve at the Gates of Hell” (that imagines his own demise) and a summation of his struggling early days in “Mother Blues.
Ray Wylie Hubbard's got a bad case of Richard Thompson syndrome: uniformly excellent recordings that make the craft of songwriting appear so effortless as to fool the average poet-strummer into thinking that a conversation with a silver-tongued devil is all it takes. Hubbard knows that's not true, but he's willing to play along. At a time when Hubbard needs to prove nothing, The Grifter's Hymnal deals a wicked hand – an ace of spades on "Red Badge of Courage" and diamonds and hearts for "Lazarus," in which Hubbard concludes slyly, "At least we ain't Lazarus and had to think twice about dying.