Guy Clark at the Belcourt (Nashville, TN), 9-23-09
The occasion for this sold-out performance to about 500 folks at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre was this week’s release on Dualtone Records of Guy Clark’s latest disc, Somedays You Write The Song, and the structure of the show suggested Guy is particularly proud of this one. Flanked on his left by fellow songwriters and ace accompanists Verlon Thompson and Shawn Camp, and on his right by the much-more-than-merely-accomplished rhythm section of percussionist Kenny Malone and upright bassist Bryn Davies, Clark proceeded to play the new album in sequence, from start to finish — as if to emphasize that fresh creative pursuits are still very much a priority for this living legend on edge of seventy.
The disc consists of originals written with a fair cast of co-conspirators, ranging from Camp and Thompson to Patrick Davis to Jedd Hughes & Ashley Monroe to Gary Nicholson & Jon Randall to Joe Leathers to Rodney Crowell. Many of them were in attendance, and he gave them their just acknowledgments when their songs came around. Introducing the one cover on the album, Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You”, Clark lamented that “Townes couldn’t be here tonight” … and yet when Guy plays, Townes is pretty much always there, in the air.
The new material was welcomed by the appreciative audience — “Hemingway’s Whiskey” and the Crowell co-write “Eamon” seemed to stand out in particular — but while Clark is determined to keep writing, he understands the weight of his own history as well. And yet, before hitting some career highlights in his second set, he made a point of passing the torch to his compadres. Thus we were gifted with Camp’s rendition of “Sis Draper” (a co-write with Clark) and “Magnolia Wind”, and Thompson’s transcendent tunes “
Darwida’sDarwettia’s Mandolin” and “Jo Walker’s Mare”. At the end of which Clark deadpanned, “Well, now you can see what I’m up against.”
Of course you can afford to be so humble when you follow those gems with the likes of “The Cape” and “L.A. Freeway” and “Homegrown Tomatoes” and “Parking Lot” and “The Randall Knife” and “Desperadoes Waiting For A Train” and “Boats To Build” and “Dublin Blues”. If Camp and Thompson have emerged as sterling songwriters in their own right, it’s partly because of what they were up against, having a mentor of Clark’s stature.
An encore call brought forth another Crowell co-write, “Stuff That Works”, played especially for Rodney on this night. But it was a line from “The Cape” that stuck with me as the evening drew to a close. “He’s still jumpin’ off the garage, will be till he’s dead,” Clark affirmed — and his first set was precisely a testament to that determination.