Monday, November 21, 2011

Music Review: The Essential Guy Clark

The Artist: Guy Clark

Guy Clark is a genuine original. He's from Texas, plays an acoustic guitar and wears jeans so people call him "country" but he's really more "folk". The lyrics are sharp, smart, and paint unforgettable images that can tickle your funny bone or tug on your heart with equal dexterity. Mostly, though, they're just real; more real than your neighbor, sometimes more real than your own memories. The music fits the lyrics.

I had a college roommate who introduced me to Jerry Jeff Walker, whose many Guy Clark covers led me to the man himself. Clark is a great writer. He's not pretentious. He doesn't try to be hip. He simply writes songs that reveal more than we often see for ourselves.

Clark's songs fit like a pair of well worn jeans. They're comfortable and can take you nearly anywhere. They are comfortable because they fit; the characters, the stories and the observations fit the world we live in. Everything from profound love of a woman (Coat From The Cold) to profound love and understanding of family (Desperadoes Waiting For A Train) to an appreciation of Lonestar State Cuisine (Texas Cookin') to a look at an original artist (Picasso's Mandolin) to a happy adios to the big city (L.A. Freeway) and a rural Texas boy coming face to face with progress (Texas 1947), Guy Clark tells it like it is - or maybe like it ought to be.

Guy Clark is the songwriter that other songwriters cover. I rate Guy Clark as one of the five greatest living English-speaking songwriters and I am very much aware of who that includes.


I recommend that your introduction to Guy Clark's body of work include The Essential Guy Clark and Boats to Build. Later, explore his other offerings. They are good, but a cut below these. His other work can sometimes be uneven but it is still compelling. The two recommended recordings are excellent. Give them a listen and I don't think you'll ever look back.

The Music: The Essential Guy Clark

The Essential Guy Clark is a compilation from Clark's excellent first two albums: Old No. 1 and Texas Cookin'. It includes nearly all of the tracks from those two recordings.

Clark is not a great singer, but his vocals are acceptable. His voice fits his songs: sometimes world weary and wise, sometimes mischievous, but always in charge of telling his stories the best way.

There may be songs on here you may have never heard. Others may be familiar to you because you have heard the original or perhaps one of the many cover versions. Don't be surprised if they fit so well that you feel like you've known them all of your life.

Have you ever met someone and immediately knew you would be good friends? This is the musical equivalent. The Essential Guy Clark is composed of almost all of Guy Clark's first two albums and some will dispute what should have been included. It's nearly everything from those two albums though, and more importantly it's all good.


Cover of
Cover of Essential Guy Clark
1.   Texas 1947
2.   Desperadoes Waiting for a Train
3.   Like a Coat From The Cold
4.   Instant Coffee Blues
5.   Let Him Roll
6.   Rita Ballou
7.   L.A. Freeway
8.   She Ain't Going Nowhere
9.   A Nickel For The Fiddler
10. That Old Time Feeling
11. Texas Cookin'
12. Anyhow, I Love You
13. Virginia's Reel
14. Broken-Hearted People
15. Black-Haired Boy
16. Me I'm Feelin' The Same
17. The Ballad of Laverne And Captain Flint
18. Don't Let The Sunshine Fool You
19. The Last Gunfighter Ballad
20. Fools For Each Other

Rating: 10 of 10 - Call it a Classic
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