Songwriters have been drawn to the stories and songs of Guy Clark for over 30 years and the luckiest have shared his den or his kitchen table and have been able to see the master craftsman at work, honing a song like he carefully constructs a guitar in his Nashville workshop.
Those of us that can appreciate the craft without having the talent drew near to the master and many of his acolytes at the Long Center in Austin, Texas, Wednesday, November 4, 2011, as the Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University-San Marcos hosted a star-studded 70th birthday celebration and tribute to Guy Clark.
The concert heralded the release of a double CD This One’s For Him (Icehouse Music Records) with 30 of Guy Clark’s songs sung by a who’s who of country music: Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, and many more.
Most audience members could easily have sung along with every lyric of Clark’s carefully worded songs, but chose to let a hush fall across the auditorium as Rodney Crowell kicked off the night with “That Ol’ Time Feeling.” Lyle Lovett followed and flatly stated that if it weren’t for Guy Clark, he wouldn’t be where he is today. Admirer after admirer took to the stage to do their best rendition of the songs of Guy Clark: Shawn Colvin, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Radney Foster, Joe Ely, Terry Allen, Jack Ingram, Jerry Jeff Walker, James McMurtry, and the son of Guy Clark’s best friend Townes, J. T. Van Zandt.
As the word pictures played around the room – old men with dominoes, a lonely man in Dublin, a girl leaving and not knowing where she’s going – the appreciation grew for the man that painted these vivid pictures and created a bond with each one of us that goes beyond being “a fan.”
After dozens of artists had paid their tribute and sung their songs, the master himself, flanked by his longtime sideman and writing partner Verlon Thompson and co-producer of the new record, Shawn Camp, came to the microphone. Waving off the applause, though not exhibiting any false modesty, Clark sang “Texas 1947,” “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” “Out in the Parking Lot,” “Boats to Build,” “The Cape,” “The Guitar,” “The Randall Knife,” “Better Days,” plus a new song he had written with Texas musician Noel McKay of the McKay Brothers. Many artists have recorded the songs of Guy Clark, but his nuance of meaning and heartfelt connection to each word came through, even when he sang a verse twice or forgot a lyric.
Almost 30 unforgettable songs were sung, but afterwards fans were listing the songs that weren’t performed that they loved: “Rita Ballou,” “Comfort and Crazy,” “Anyhow, I Love You,” “Heartbroke,” and on and on. Texas Music Magazine listed the 70 best Guy Clark songs in their recent tribute to this legend and they fully admit it was hard to thin the list to only 70. If you haven’t discovered the music of Guy Clark, do yourself a favor and invest in The Essential Guy Clark or his live album Keepers or his latest release Guy Clark: Songs and Stories (Dualtone). And invest in This One’s For Him. A portion of its profits will benefit the Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University-San Marcos, a program that endeavors to explore and celebrate the Texas songwriters that have created a vivid picture of our state and our lives, like Guy Clark.
-Submitted by Janice Williams, Music Design
*Photo by Machelle Dunlop Photography