David Clark – Chasing tales
“All children make up stories, most folks just quit,” David Clark says when asked how he got started. Clark’s storytelling carries a definite musicality in texture, tone, and pace, peeling open layers of meaning behind the simple actions of everyday life.
Clark has released four CDs in the past five years, including his latest, Myth America. Like a less-smug Garrison Keillor, Clark tells stories of small-town life that touch on universal themes such as family, faith, and economic hardship.
“When I tell stories about my childhood, for example, people immediately connect with that,” Clark says. “Their memories are triggered by my stories. This one guy came up to me, he was around 50, and said, ‘I sat there for two hours trying to figure out what you are doing. You remember those connect-the-dots pictures? That’s what you’re doing. Two songs later you would say something that would go back to something you said earlier. You connected dots in me that I haven’t thought about in 40 years.'”
That continuity is what sets Clark apart from other storytellers who relate mostly separate tales. At the outset of his 1997 disc Kindly Curious, for example, he recalls a hilarious incident involving a truckload of pigs, some twine and a large tree. Seven songs later, we learn the consequences of what happened in the initial segment.
Clark is also a talented acoustic guitarist with an unusual fingerpicking technique that has puzzled more than one spectator. “I use five fingerpicks on the right hand,” he says. “People ask me what kind of effects I’m using, I just hold up all ten fingers.”
His repertoire ranges from Bach to patriotic tunes, and of course some original story-songs. The new disc closes with a haunting medley arrangement of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Dixie”; Clark says this is “the version the boys played on the way back home from Appomattox.”
Clark also writes a weekly column that appears in a number of mostly small Southeastern newspapers, and e-mails them for free to anyone who asks. His newest project is one he didn’t write, however. Clark has taped a series of the classic Uncle Remus stories spoken in black dialect with different character voices.
“I started doing them on the radio,” he says. “I love that dialect and that character. He was the archetypal wise man, talking to a little white boy on how things really go, using animals as the characters.”
To Clark, the stories still resonate. “Down where I live in the country, that vernacular and that way of communicating is still very prevalent.” Indeed, Clark’s stories are a reminder that unlike William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County, the town of Cochran, Georgia, really exists.