God and the devil figure prominently in Ray Wylie Hubbard’s new album, “Tell the Devil I’m Getting There As Fast As I Can.” Deriving inspiration from biblical stories, mythology and even guitar tuning techniques, Hubbard has put together a dynamite collection of songs. With a bard’s lyrical richness and a bluesman’s heavy grooves, Hubbard has a style that is all his own. He’s joined on his new album by guests Lucinda Williams, Eric Church, Patty Griffin and Bright Light Social Hour.
Hubbard lives in Texas Hill Country (just outside of Austin) these days, but ever since high school, he has visited Red River, drawn to the mountain hideout he calls “magical and magnetic.” Hubbard is back to perform this Saturday (Oct. 7) at 9 p.m. at the Motherlode Saloon, 406 Main St., Red River. Tickets are $20.
“I’ve never been a mainstream writer,” said Hubbard in a recent interview with Tempo. “I’ve always been a bit on the fringe of it.”
It’s a position Hubbard is happy to be in. “I have the freedom to write about whatever I want to write about. I feel very fortunate to be able to do that,” he commented.
When asked about his religious background, Hubbard mentioned that he was raised in rural Oklahoma, close to his grandmothers. One grandmother was a Southern Baptist and the other belonged to the Church of Christ.
“I kind of got that whole Pentecostal feel when I was a kid, which – some of it is kinda scary. When you’re a kid, you go down to the muddy, boggy river and they dunk you in it,” recalled Hubbard. “Today, I call myself a spiritual mongrel. I don’t follow one particular dogma, and I don’t belong to or go to a church, but I try to live by certain spiritual principles.”
Hubbard’s father was an English teacher, and Hubbard was exposed to literature from an early age. He remembers reading the works of Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron and other writers, and reading is still important to Hubbard today.
“I’m one of these old cats who loves books – I read biography, autobiographies, mythology. I just pretty much always read, and I keep trying to learn new things,” Hubbard commented. “When I was 40, I learned to fingerpick like the old blues guys. Then, I learned open tunings, then I learned slide, then I got a mandolin. By learning new things, that gives the song a door to come through that wasn’t there. If I hadn’t learned open tuning, I wouldn’t have got the song ‘God Looked Around’ or if I hadn’t learned open G, I wouldn’t have gotten the song ‘Prayer.’ So, I keep trying to learn new things and reading different things. You never know where inspiration will come from.”
Hubbard started out as a folk musician, inspired by Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. However, he also listened to a lot of blues musicians, such as Lightnin’ Hopkins and John Lee Hooker.
“It’s a really good marriage for me to have that background in folk music and literature where the words are very important, but then to lay it on a deep groove. … In my 40s, I really put forth the time and effort to really study these old blues guys I really have so much respect for … to see the depth of what they were doing.”
The effect of Hubbard’s influences is clear. His songs are striking in their storytelling, with solid rhythmic teeth. Expect to be mesmerized.
For more information, call the Motherlode Saloon at (575) 754-6280.