This One's for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark
Some are singers, some are songwriters, but very few are poets. Guy Clark is one.
Take one of his early hits, performed here by Radney Foster:
If I can just get off of this LA freeway/ Without getting killed or caught/ I'd be down that road in a cloud of smoke/ For some land that I ain't bought.
Such a descriptive account that any can relate to, even if you've never been near a road in Los Angeles. So much mystery is contained in just those two words... or caught. That's poetry.
Guy Clark is one of a handful of Texas songwriters -- Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Butch Hancock, and maybe Joe Ely and Lyle Lovett -- that so perfectly capture the emotions of just being human. Clark does it about as good as you can get, and the hallmark of his style is its simplicity. No wordy metaphors, no literary allusions are found in his songs. Rather you are stopped by a line or phrase that you think you could have written, because it sums up a certain feeling that you thought only you entertained. For the 30 selections here, some of the greats take turns interpreting Clark, and unlike most tribute discs, everyone is a winner. Willie has the perfect low-key delivery for "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train," and Rosie Flores absolutely owns "Baby Took a Limo to Memphis."
But even among such stellar performances, a few stand apart. John Townes Van Zandt II channels his father's empathy and weariness on "Let Him Roll" -- I guarantee it will make your hair stand up. Likewise when The Trishas have a go at "She Ain't Goin' Nowhere," with its devastating line She ain't goin' nowhere, she's just leavin', you wonder how a man can sing that song again. Poetry.
Guy Clark has been an American treasure for 70 years now, and if you haven't made his acquaintance, you've been missing some of the greatest songwriting around. This tribute is a wonderful thing, and you can tell that all the performers here feel a connection to the words they are singing. I suspect you will too.