I recently traded lunch for an hour meandering Waterloo Records, a local record store that helps keep Austin weird. High on the Waterloo charts was Ray Wylie Hubbard. I was familiar with this cantankerous sounding Texas roadhouse singer songwriter but Top Ten? Really? I liked his song “Snake Farm” a lot so I plunked down $15 and headed back to the office.
Grifter’s Hymnal. A collection of hymns from a con man? Maybe I was suffering from hickory smoke inhalation caused by too many BBQs, but I found Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest to be a gem of an album. Forty years from his first LP, this guy rocks and growls with the best of them. “Coricidin Bottle” leads off the album, a fun reference to the pharmacy bottle Duane Allman’s used for slide guitar. “South of the River” is something you hope to hear in any true Texas roadhouse. While “Lazarus” and “New Year’s Eve at the Gates of Hell” get the critics raves, I personally like “Mother’s Blues” the best. Ray tells a part of his story as only Ray can – with honesty and humor.
This album made me sit back and reflect a bit – family, music, Austin, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q – everything intersecting to the here and now in a really good way. Ray Wylie Hubbard sings “the days I keep the gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days”. I had a really good day.