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Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark

Together at the Bluebird Cafe – 2002 (American Originals)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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Kickstart Country Standard Time to Nashville

CDs by Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark

Though it's not exactly Live Aid or the Concert for Bangladesh, this 1995 benefit concert for a Nashville dental clinic showcases three premier singer/songwriters at their best. Guy Clark, Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt alternate playing acoustic versions or their tunes, including Earle's popular "Copperhead Road" and the late Van Zandt's oft covered "Pancho and Lefty."

Some of the more entertaining moments are in the banter between songs. In his intro to "Valentine's Day" Earle explains that the song was written as a Valentine's gift for his wife when he realized he had forgotten to buy her a present for the occasion. And in a story designed to relate to the dental theme Van Zandt tells of losing a gold tooth in a card game, only to have a friend extract the wrong tooth when attempting to pay his debt.

Clark is not as talkative as his companions, but he does contribute such moving ballads as "Randall Knife" and "Immigrant Eyes." The only weakness is in the packaging with no photos from the event, and the liner notes fail to identify a female harmony singer on a couple of tunes (though she sounds suspicioiusly like Emmylou Harris). This release gives fans of Clark, Earle and Van Zandt the chance to experience a heck of a show. (Box 5807, Englewood, NJ 07631)