Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Ray Wylie Hubbard: 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-