Guy Clark: Somedays the Song Writes You
At least he’s been writing hit songs since I was a kid and if that isn’t forever ago, I don’t know what is. Strange thing though, even though he’s written songs that were hits for folks like Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, and Rodney Crowell, none of his own recordings have ever made much of a dent in the sales charts.
And that’s a damn shame because he is a heck of a fine performer as well as being a top notch songwriter.
He first recording, Old No. 1,was released in the mid seventies but despite featuring bonafide Clark penned classics like “L.A. Freeway,” “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” “Like a Coat from the Cold” and “Let Him Roll” it was not a huge success. In fact, to this day, “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperados Waiting for a Train” are more closely associated with Jerry Jeff Walker than they are with the man who wrote them. Don’t get me wrong, I dig Jerry Jeff Walker and enjoy his versions, but you can’t beat the real thing and unfortunately a lot of people don’t know what that is.
Guy Clark’s latest album, Somedays The Song Writes You,is also the real thing. Despite a voice that shows its age in places, he is in top form here, both as a songwriter and as a performer. He’s accompanied by Verlon Thompson, Kenny Malone, Bryn Davies and Shawn Camp. Verlon Thompson’s lead guitar in particular is a wonderful accompaniment to Clark’s at times reedy vocals.
At this point in his career he kind of has to herd his voice through the melody, but if there are the occasional stray notes, he manages to round them up in the end.
The title of the album comes from the opening track (my favorite song), “Somedays You Write the Song,”
It’s one of those days you can’t explain
When nothing’s right or wrong
Too much wine or not enough
So you just play along
There’s no rhyme or reason
Ain’t a damn thing you can do
Somedays you write the song,
Somedays the song writes you.
Clark is at the point in his career when a lot of his songs can’t help but strike a valedictory note, but in fact that is something that’s been a part of his music for a long, long time. He’s just grown into his music in such a way that what might have seemed posed, or ironic in a younger man, now seems quite natural.
A lot of these songs cover territory that will seem familiar to his fans, but he isn’t merely repeating himself. He has the knack for producing a well-made song with a hook and a bridge and verses that scan on the page, but he always gives them that little touch of something extra that makes them sound not merely well written but inevitable.
Some folks run out of steam or ideas or desire when they reach a certain age, but like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, Guy Clark has had a hell of a third act. If you like real country music, Somedays the Song Writes You is an absolute gem of an album
Edwin E. Smith is a poet, heckuva writer and all around swell guy. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit him on the Internet at edwinesmith.com