Sign up for newsletter
 
From the Country Standard Time Archives

Guy Clark earns singer/songwrtier acclaim

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., May 18, 1997

By Jeffrey B. Remz

SOMERVILLE, MASS. - Guy Clark has long been revered as one of the finest of singer-songwriters in the country music scene.

And the Texan, who mines the same territory as his late friend Townes Van Zandt, showed Sunday night at a packed Johnny D's why he deserves the praise.

Clark, 55, has been around for more than two decades. Yet, his songs still stand the test of time. He has a keen sense of writing with the ability, telling stories of society's down-and-outers. Sometimes a hopefulness to their lot in life surfaces. Other times, the songs are of the down-in-the-dumps variety.

"L.A. Freeway," perhaps his best known song, describes leaving the concrete" of La La land for the comforts of "some dirt road back street."

"Better Days" is a song of hope of a woman who's "takin' charge of her life for a change/She's takin' it back that's she lost."

The woman in "She Ain't Goin' Nowhere" also is seeking her freedom, but as the title says, her future is uncertain.

One of the best all evening was "South Coast of Texas," a slice of life song about the shrimpers and life in the beer joints after work. "Desparados Waiting for a Train" is yet another example of his ability to tell stories via well-crafted songs.

Clark took many requests from the crowd, pulling out some songs ("Better Days") from his hat. "I haven't played this one in a long time. This should be interesting. We'll see how it goes."

No problem at all.

Clark never has possessed the world's greatest voice. He still doesn't, but there is a leathery honesty to his worn singing voice as if he has lived the songs or at least knows of what he sings.

Despite the seriousness of most of the songs (that, of course, doesn't apply to his light-hearted gem, "Homegrown Tomatoes"), Clark offered a strong dose of humor on stage, several times poking fun at his guitar playing. He clearly enjoyed himself and was appreciative of the strong reception he received during his generous two-hour set.

Clark, touring off the heels of his fine new recording, "Keepers," was aided on stage by his son Travis on acoustic bass and mandolin/acoustic guitarist Darrell Scott. Both fleshed out the songs musically adding a sonic kick when needed. Scott's mandolin playing was a particular highlight, especially on "South Coast of Texas."

Scott, who lived in Boston for nine years before heading to Nashville, and the younger Clark also added meat to the songs vocally, backing up the elder Clark. Travis Clark also sang two of his songs, acquitting himself well on the bluesy "Good Ol' Boy in a Brave New World."

The simplicity of the music underscored the strength of the lyrics.

Scott, who just released his debut on Sugar Hill (the same label as Clark), opened the evening with a half-hour plus of solid songs. His voice recalls Lyle Lovett, and like Clark, he possesses, a sharp pen.

All in all, this was one strong night for an up-and-coming songwriter and one who has well earned his accolades. Clark summed up the evening at the get-go when he told his fans, "We're gonna have some fun this evening."