Texas singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard chuckles when asked if mortality was on his mind when he wrote the songs for his newly released album “Tell The Devil I’m Getting There As Fast As I Can.”
The album opens with a retelling of the opening of the Biblical book of Genesis in “God Looked Around,” references the Devil in “Lucifer and the Fallen Angels,” muses on what happens after he’s gone in “In Times Of Cold” and then there’s “Prayer.”
He doesn’t argue.
“I’m hoping God grades on the curve,” he said.
At the same time, the sound of “Tell The Devil” is the sort of gritty blues guitar and roots-rock thump that gives him joy. Hubbard has found that sweet spot in a career where he plays enough to pay the bills, record every so often and stick to his muse rather than chase the fickle tastes of the mass market. In some ways, “Tell The Devil” sums up a lot of Hubbard’s life and loves.
Hubbard, 70, brings his music new and old to the Waco Hippodrome for a Saturday night show. There’s the song that he’ll never shake, “Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother” that Jerry Jeff Walker turned into a Texas legend, as well as stuff from his ‘90s albums “Loco Gringo’s Lament” and “Lost Train Of Thought,” his 2006 success “Snake Farm” and 2012’s “The Grifter’s Hymnal.”
And now, some new songs from “Tell The Devil.”
“(Recording) is a lot of fun. It’s still a jazz for me,” he said, quipping about his wife Judy’s work as head of their Bordello Records. “I feel very fortunate. I sleep with the president of my record label.”
Hubbard, one of the ornery, independent Texas musicians that put Austin on the music map of the 1970s, survived a bout of substance abuse to become one of the state’s revered singer-songwriters, proving a mentor to young contemporaries such as Hays Carll, Eric Church and Slay Cleaves.
He’s found a gritty, gravely Americana sound a satisfying container for his words, their simpler backing allowing a lyrical freedom not dependent on radio-friendly three-minute lengths or catchy hooks.
“I started off in folk music. Lyrics are very important. Then in my 40s, I wanted to play guitar like Lightning Hopkins and John Lee Hooker,” he explained. “I learned fingerpicking, country blues. It’s been a real good place for me . . . I’ve never been mainstream — Hell, I wrote ‘Redneck Mother.’ It wasn’t country.”
Hubbard finds a new generation of fans are paying attention, drawn by their interest in something real and authentic. “At my age, that’s a good place for me,” he said.
Being real also pays off in performance as listeners usually are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Don’t listen too close. I might hit a wrong chord or something,” Hubbard laughed.