Release Date: Aug 16, 2011
Record label: Dualtone Music
Genre(s): Country, Alt-Country, Pop/Rock, Country-Folk, Progressive Country
Few can get away with what Guy Clark can, something the 69-year-old demonstrates in the opening moments of this aptly titled live release. Not only does he open the album with a drawling explanation of why he and his band are sitting rather than standing on the stage of the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, but he also spends time introducing each member as well. Maybe it doesn’t make much sense for him to do that—this is an audio recording after all—but then again maybe it does, for we get the full experience of the show that way.
Guy Clark’s always been charming, and that easy graciousness can obscure the exacting quality of his writing. Few can split a moment open with such exquisite detail or emotional nuance, and, in the brevity of his language, the 69-year old Texan can take your breath away. Those two realities oppose with delicious juxtaposition on Songs and Stories, the 13-song/nine-story collection recorded live at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre.
Guy Clark is a superlative songwriter, a fine and thoughtful vocalist, and a compelling live performer, so it's a bit surprising that he hasn't released more live recordings, which would allow him to show off these three talents to their best advantage. Songs and Stories is only the second live album of Clark's career, coming 14 years after 1997's excellent Keepers, and there are some telling similarities between the two albums. Guitarist Verlon Thompson is still the anchor of Clark's acoustic band, Kenny Malone is still playing percussion, and both sets begin with the song "L.A.
The dean of Texas songwriters has live albums under his belt. Now approaching 70, Guy Clark's most recent performances, such as this one – recorded in 2009 at Nashville, Tenn.'s Belcourt Theatre – have a solemnity and sense of purpose that's deeper than anything he's done in the past. Chock-full of crowd-pleasers plus a mystifying tale of Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You," Clark and his band once again weave a beguiling spell.
We’ll never know exactly how humans discovered song. Maybe cave dwellers howled along with wolves until melodies came out. But it’s a good bet that as soon as they began uttering words, songwriters became storytellers. And so we have an unbroken line (or, better yet, circle) that draws us directly to Guy Clark.