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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
Recorded live at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville in the company of his usual partner in crime Verlon Thompson (vocals, guitar, storyteller) plus Shawn Camp (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Bryn Davies (upright bass) and Kenny Malone (percussion) Texas singer-songwriter, great Guy Clark comes through with his second live album. Following in the footstep of his 1997 live record, Keepers, Songs And Stories. That though, it admittedly covers some of the same ground it is still a wonderful treat. Like its predecessor it includes ‘L.A Freeway’ that kicks off both records plus ‘Homegrown Potatoes’ and ‘Out In The Parking Lot’ that last time around had only just been written and starred Clark's co-writer at the time Darrell Scott.
‘L.A Freeway’ this time comes complete with a greater embellishment of how it came to be written and when it comes to perennials it has for company the saga of the ‘Randall Knife’ and one of his best songs of the past twenty years ‘Dublin Blues’. Though Guy’s vocals are not quite as full-bodied as they once were it is still a flat-out fantastic song. Worthy of closing any show! His tribute to Townes Van Zandt comes by way of a version of ‘If I Needed You’.It is good too. But hasn't the defining beauty of a song he wrote with Rodney Crowell, ‘Stuff That Works’ —because, it is the business. A gem if there ever was an of the kind the word, timeless instantly comes to mind. Everyday people, everyday life written about in a simple precise fashion. The kind of material people readily connect.
One of his newer songs ‘Maybe I Can Paint Over That’ is one he wrote with Shawn and Verlon and it comes through, brilliantly. With the musicianship superb and camaraderie between them so strong this is far from being just a Guy Clark album for both Camp and Verlon get to perform and introduce two songs. Camp’s efforts are the slick acoustic guitar plied ‘Sis Draper’ and the mellow, heart-tugging ‘Magnolia Wind’. As for Thompson’s contributions they are the self-penned ‘Darwettia’s Mandolin’ about his mother and ‘Joe Walker’s Mare’ and are both sharp, bouncy little ditties. Enough to kick up a dust to match bluegrass pickers at their best. The latter thanks to Camp’s fine mandolin solos (he also plays the dickens out if ‘Sis Draper’), Davies bass and Thompson’s fine guitar work. This while Guy takes a back seat.
Now we need to wait it out till Guy comes through with another bunch of new songs and the boys and Bryn get to assist arguably the greatest Texas and more beside singer-songwriter of the last forty years. Storytellers of this calibre are hard to come by. My guess is there will be people that will, after hearing this go searching among his back catalogue and won’t be disappointed in what they find.
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