There’s not much I can say about Guy Clark that somebody hasn’t said already. I didn’t grow up listening to his songs necessarily, but once I started hearing them it was easy to want more.
The legendary Texas songwriter died yesterday at 74.
This profile will tell you what you need to know about Clark. It came across my Twitter feed one morning in early January 2014. I was preparing to board a plane for Hawaii and storing up reading material for the journey. Read that one twice. A perfectly constructed story about a fascinating subject. Any instructor who tries to teach folks how to write profiles would be wise to use this one as example number one.
Afterward, I downloaded two or three recent Clark albums and passed those hours over the Pacific enjoying his weathered voice, noticing how he always picked the precise word to help tell those stories, how he made you feel as if you were right there among those characters. The credit card bill got paid, eventually.
Whether it’s Emmylou Harris or Steve Earle or dozens of musicians in between, I’ve heard them all praise Clark as generous with his time. He showed artists how to turn a phrase and make their songs better. He was interested in the songs they were writing at that moment. It was always about the craft – and rarely easy. Helping others. If that’s a piece of your legacy, you’ve done alright.
Here’s another good read from someone who knew him well.
Still, here’s my favorite Guy Clark song. Heard it 15 years ago or so, introduced to Guy’s songs through his old late-night buddy, Townes Van Zandt. Captures the desire of a man eager to get the hell out of town and make a new start. If you’ve ever been in that spot, you know what he means. Besides, it’s not a simple trick, singing about vanilla wafers and hanging on to your dignity. He pulled that off, too.
Can’t get enough of this band right now … I know there is bluegrass in their name (my soon-to-be-four-year-old grasped the play on words by herself immediately because she’s already smarter than me, which I understand is a low fence to climb but still considering my advanced age it won’t be long before she’s able to use her intelligence against me if she so chooses. So keep us in your thoughts. And I know every parent thinks their kid is smart and maybe everybody is right).
And yes, these fellas play the requisite bluegrass instruments – banjo, mandolin, big stand up bass, dobro-ish thingy – but the music crosses many genres, especially their selection of cover songs (When Doves Cry, Money for Nothing, Time, Could You be Loved, Wind Cries Mary, China Cat Sunflower, Atlantic City, etc). Paul Hoffman (the mandolin player) is a helluva songwriter with a fine voice and outstanding beard.
Also, the band hails from Michigan which is a beautiful place to hang out in the summer and ride a jet ski across their Great Lake with a tall, cold beverage in hand and a soft, warm body on your back.
The spirit is real.
Smoked pork shoulder is good. A man can write all the fancy pants sentences he wants. He can opine about basketball games and golf tournaments until he’s hoarse. He can walk a golf course in the hot sun with a bag of instruments on his back til his feet ache. He might make a putt on occasion. But those activities are silly distractions compared to a honest day’s work stoking fire and cooking meat to feed his family, small people some of them may be.
What a time to be alive, watch this cat pitch and Vin call it, sleep be damned.
Will write more soon.
Cars stopped. People looked away. Cars crashed.
Hundreds stacked up on some interstate highway, if you believe what you see on the interwebs.
Been down those roads, late and recently, through the sweet heart of North Carolina. It’s tough out there sometimes, wondering what the cat beside you might have rattling around in his head. Boss trouble. Wife trouble. Money trouble. Maybe somebody forgot to mow the lawn. One eye on an iPhone and another in the ether, far beyond any simple help Siri might give. Over here cruising 75 miles-an-hour, real smooth, holding hard and fast to a fat jug of gas station coffee. Out there gambling on the highway, trying to use some sense.
So, this is how it begins.