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I don’t need an excuse to put on a Guy Clark record, but Dualtone through this 2 cd retrospective gave me a good one. Guy’s time with Dualtone was a solid period for Clark, with his albums which were released at a consistent rate of one every two or three years. Apart from the sixteen songs taken from the four albums released by Dualtone (2006-2013) it also offers three previously unreleased writer demos; “Just To Watch Maria Dance”, “The Last Hobo” and “Time”.


Among his many achievements, the Texas songwriter earned through My Favorite Picture Of You a Grammy for Best Folk Album. Even during his twilight years he was still crafting songs good enough to make people still up and applaud. A master craftsman both as a guitar maker and songwriter Guy Clark set the standard. Not only for those who followed but for his own efforts. Till the end her would carve, smooth and strip down his songs till they were perfect and then delver them with his sand paper fashioned voice off a graceful beauty rarely heard. Guy Clark knew nothing else but perfection when it came to songwriting. 


By the time he signed up with Dualtone his fans had already seen two on RCA, four on Warner Bros and a batch on Sugar Hill; a relationship which started with his comeback album Old Friends; each of the labels can lay claim to having put out some great work. Clark’s standing as a songwriter and upstanding man placed him up with the greats, his eye for detail coupled by his lean stripped back lyrical style ensured budding writers gravitated to him. Not only did he write a heap of terrific songs for the common man, but he also introduced, and in his own way help nurture once budding songwriters Darrell Scott and Verlon Thompson. Plus Shawn Camp and Noel McKay who have been left to carry the torch for the latest generation of songwriters and with whom Guy enjoyed direct contact with as songwriting partners.  


The compilation throws in three previously unreleased tracks in a running order of a varied nature, and it is great to see live versions of Clark perennials “L.A Freeway” , “Homegrown Tomatoes” and “Dublin Blues” once gain a slot on one of his records. Another live recording is Clark’s tale about his father and “The Randall Knife”.  “The Cape” likewise has the honor bestowed on it, and though it isn’t of the same caliber in my estimation of the above it is still good. His great friend Townes Van Zandt who could be often found around when Clark wrote some of his biggest early songs has his own gem “If I Needed You” figure among the tracks.


A wonderful guitar player in his own right the second disc offers up latter day jewels “Cornmeal Waltz” (w/ Camp), draped in fiddle and harmony vocals and acoustic guitar it is one of the most beautiful songs he ever wrote. It is closely followed by his and McKay’s woody Guthrie-esque Mexican immigrant song “El Coyote”, and one written with his great friend, Verlon Thompson “Tornado Time In Texas”. Both are quality pieces. 


Sandwiched between them and demos good enough to be on most any one’s album “Just To Watch Maria Dance” (w/ Lady Goodman; aka Holly Gleason) has shades of past songs, and glories stamped all over it. Tender and evocative of all great songwriters it wriggles its way into one’s senses the first time of hearing. “The Last Hobo” a co-write with Hal Ketchum likewise enjoys a graceful beauty.Final unheard song “Time” (w/ Marty Stuart) sounds like it could do with a little more work before realizing its full potential.


Otherwise, the compilation powered by among others “Rain In Durango”, and a song inspired by his wife, Susanna “My Favorite Picture Of You” plus “Hemingway’s Whiskey”, “The Guitar” (Clark - Thompson) and a song written with Darrell Scott mellow ode “Out In The Parkin’ Lot’ will often gain a spin in my den. Guy Clark gave poetic life to the most innocent of situations, and or something as simple as a nickel flattened on a railroad track by a passing freight train.  


                                                                   Maurice Hope         

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