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Steve Earle

GUY – 2019 (New West)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Steve Earle

A decade after recording his tribute to Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle has released an album of Guy Clark covers. It includes, perhaps, Clark's best-known songs, "L.A. Freeway" and "Desperados Waiting For A Train," as well as a slew of songs not known quite so well. Most significantly, it's an album that showcases the breadth of Clark's work. Clark was a songwriter's songwriter, something many of the best Americana songwriters - including Earle - know well.

Clark could write a straightforward heartbreak song, like the aptly named "Heartbroke" and then pen a song steeped Old West imagery, such as the mainly spoken (rather than sung) "The Last Gunfighter." "Out In The Parking Lot" actually sounds a lot like an Earle original, especially with its jangling electric guitar accompaniment. You can also pick up Clark's influence on Earle with "The Randall Knife," which is storytelling at its best.

The only mark against "GUY" is how rough Earle's voice sounds. Time has taken its toll on Earle's vocal cords over the years, but it hasn't hampered the singer/songwriter's performances too much - at least not until now. There are moments where Earle's singing is painfully weary. "That Old Time Feeling" is especially rough. Maybe this factor is more noticeable because Earle is covering somebody else's songs, and not singing his own.

Vocal demerits aside, though, you won't find many other albums with this many quality songs. Earle learned well from this master, and there is no better way than this album to show his appreciation.