Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ray Wylie Hubbard

  • Dangerous Spirits [Philo, 1997] Dud
  • The Grifter's Hymnal [Bordello, 2012] A-
  • Tell the Devil . . . I'm Gettin' There as Fast as I Can [Bordello/Thirty Tigers, 2017] *
  • Co-Starring [Big Machine, 2020] **
  • Co-Starring Too [Big Machine, 2022] A-

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Dangerous Spirits [Philo, 1997] Dud

The Grifter's Hymnal [Bordello, 2012]
At 66, this fringe Texas outlaw has been making records for 42 years even though, as he says himself in the quotable "New Year's Eve at the Gates of Hell," "the truth of the matter is I really can't sing." That's why I never checked him out seriously, shelving his first album on his wife's label even though it showcased a Hayes Carll co-write I relished. Reaccessing that record now--its sobriety-inspired title: A: Enlightenment B: Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C)--I decided the problem wasn't the vocals, but Hubbard's decision to prove that he considers Muddy Waters "as deep as Blake" by grooving his blues downtempo. The follow-up is his party record, and deeper as a consequence, dark and hilarious and gone so fast you're too busy tapping your inner foot to cavil about pitch or timbre. So permit me to complete that "Gates of Hell" couplet: "But I can quote Martin Luther King." And then add another one: "They're burning over there with the Fox News whores/Oh look is that the singer for the Doors?" (BTW: it isn't.) A-

Tell the Devil . . . I'm Gettin' There as Fast as I Can [Bordello/Thirty Tigers, 2017]
Since he couldn't sing to begin with, old age suits him musically while lending weight, cred, and color to his tales of sin ("House of the White Rose Bouquet," "Lucifer and the Fallen Angels") *

Co-Starring [Big Machine, 2020]
It takes cojones to be a ballbuster at 73, heart to be a good-hearted one, and well-tended amiability to get your friends to play along ("Drink Till I See Double," "Mississippi John Hurt") **

Co-Starring Too [Big Machine, 2022]
The 75-year-old Hubbard actually got better as his voice evolved from amelodic to just plain old, and unlikely though it may seem, his second straight duet album actually has more jam than its 2020 predecessor. It's not like Steve Earle or James McMurtry has it in him to provide much extra vocal puissance anyway, although the Shiny Soul Sisters add major cred to the slinky soul music tribute "Groove," as do the Bluebonnets to the one that rides the indelible couplet "Only a fool uh disrespect a woman/A woman is the best thing to ever take place" and references the 19th Amendment by name. Of course he's "Gonna transcend like Henry David Thoreau/Listen to the sweetheart of the rodeo." Of course he's gonna "love a woman who's pretty reckless/Wears a bullet on her necklace." It's even possible that he's "headed due east hellbent for leather/Might even get the band back together." A-