The celebrated singer-songwriter shows no signs of slowing down.
“Redneck Mother” singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard grew up an Oklahoma folkie in the ’60s and ’70s, but later moved to Texas, the place he once majored in English and now calls home. For decades, the Lone Star State has inspired his witty songs and catapulted him into the category of Texas icon and Americana hero.
With hits that include “Snake Farm”; “Screw You, We’re from Texas,” performed recently with a grinning Eric Church in big-arena fashion at Dallas’ American Airlines Center; and “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” the Ray Wylie classic made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker, Hubbard’s career has taken him through many different genres, from down-home rock to soulful blues. Despite the many different genres the artist explores, Hubbard’s signature gritty voice paired with his witty lyrics creates a combination of music that can only be identified as his.
“I used to go see Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb and Freddie King, all those cats, but I never could play like them — I guess because I never took the time or effort to try — until I was in my 40s and learned how to fingerpick,” Hubbard has said. “Once I learned how to fingerpick, I started going, ‘Oh, OK, this is how they did all that!’ Then I started learning open tuning, and then slide, and it was just this incredible freedom that gave all these songs a door to come through that wasn’t there before. It was like all of a sudden having this whole other language or a whole other set of tools to add to my arsenal.”
The Texas troubadour — who spoke to C&I last year on the occasion of his 70th birthday — put together all that cumulative inspiration on his 16th studio album, The Ruffian’s Misfortune (Bordello Records/Thirty Tigers, 2015), in a follow-up to 2012’s highly praised The Grifter’s Hymnal. That latest album, a couple of years old now, seemed to pick up right where the last one left off, giving us the feeling that this is just the next installment of more good things to come — and soon, we hope.
“As I look back, I’ve had some amazing cool things happen, but I still feel like I’m moving forward,” Hubbard said in a press release. “I still enjoy it, and I think there’s still plateaus to reach. I don’t know what they’re going to be, because I haven’t really sat around thinking about it; when I wrote ‘Mother Blues’ for [The Grifter’s Hymnal], I wasn’t thinking, I’ll put this album out and try to get on Letterman — he just heard the song on SiriusXM Radio and called up and asked for us. So who knows what will happen with this record? All I know is I feel very fortunate right now in that I’m playing gigs that are really fun to do. And as long as I can keep writing and performing new songs, I think I could keep doing this for a while. I saw some show once where Pinetop Perkins was playing at 90 years old, and [my wife] Judy said, ‘You’ve got another 20 years in you!’”