Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Guy Clark isn’t exactly a household name, which is very unfortunate. He has been called the greatest songwriter of the last 50 years. That puts him in some lofty company with the likes of Dylan, Prine, and Van Zandt. Before his death on May 17, 2016, Clark had 13 studio albums to his credit. That doesn’t even include the songs that have been recorded by others. He never did well in the charts but his songs had success being recorded by other artists. Some of the artists that have recorded Clark’s songs include Jerry Jeff Walker, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Kenny Chesney.
I have stated that you can’t judge a performance by the size of the audience and you can’t just a recording artist by chart success. Guy Clark WAS one of the greatest songwriters in the last 50 years. He had the ability to tell vivid stories in three minutes or so to make the listener really identify with the characters. Clark’s songs also contain lines that are so profound that I just shake my head from side to side when I hear them. Almost in disbelief that someone could articulate such incredible words. Take the song Hemingway’s Whiskey for instance, the lines in this song are amazing:
Warm and smooth and mean,
Even when it burns,
It will always finish clean.
He did not like it watered down,
He took it straight up and neat,
If it’s bad enough for him,
You know it’s bad enough for me,
I can listen to those lines over and over, they are so profound. That is one example of too many to mention. The Dualtone years for Guy Clark were his last three studio albums between the years of 2006 to 2013. He didn’t lose any steps between his earlier albums and the three that are represented in this collection. His voice is a little more raspy and maybe not as strong, but his incredible songwriting more than makes up for any minor shortcomings. This collection is 19 songs of great music. He even manages to get one Townes Van Zandt song in there, If I needed You. Clark and Van Zandt were great friends and Clark appears in the documentary about Townes Van Zandt called Be Here To Love Me.
It is a crime that Guy Clark isn’t more well know, but you can right this wrong by pre ordering this collection. The Dualtone albums are on Bandcamp (link to follow) so you can listen to his music and fall in love with it like everyone does.