It’s not just the easy charm with which the wily raconteur delivers “Lazarus” and “New Year’s Eve at the Gates of Hell.” He’s equal parts storyteller and rhythm maker, and Grifter’s Hymnal lays out an intensely personal venture, allowing him to smack around demons long shaken off and leave a valentine to his wife of more than 20 years in “Mother Blues.”
For many Austinites, “South of the River” resonates thanks to homegrown pride, its irresistible beat, and its name-checking the Band of Heathens, Jon Dee Graham, and other denizens of 78704.
“That’s it,” agrees Hubbard. “It’s just acknowledging Austin and its integrity, and its music and its bands. Back when Townes [Van Zandt] and I were playing, the quality of life and musicianship in this town were unsurpassed.
“I was driving in for Roky Erickson’s Ice Cream Social during last South by Southwest and got this chorus: ‘South of the river, with a band that delivers.’
“And you can’t have a big ego in this town. You think you write a good song and walk into the Continental Club, and there’s [James] McMurtry or Jon Dee Graham. That’s what keeps the quality of Austin music so high. There’s no real competition; you just have to bring something good to the table. That’s the point of the song: These Austin bands do deliver. That’s the vibe.
“I did have to change the line, ‘You should have heard the James Gang Rides Again’ from ‘You should have seen Zeppelin in ’78.’ That’s the way I sang it, but then I realized Zeppelin didn’t tour in ’78.
“I had to change it or somebody would catch me.” – Margaret Moser