Guy Clark: My Favorite Picture Of You: The Lion In Winter
For all the times in my life I’ve wished I were younger, I have to admit there are plenty of times that I’m grateful for my age. I’ve gotten to see a lot of history in real time and got to school some younger people about the “way it really was” and so on, (whether they were listening or not). One of those grateful aspects has been to buy each and every Guy Clark album as it came out and to be a passenger on his journey through life. For that I will always be indebted to my age.
On his new album “My Favorite Picture Of You,” he takes us to a new place that whether we admit it or not we are all headed. The once rough hard-scrabble drifter who could grab his wife, a few friends, the dogs and load them all into a truck and move on is now settled and looking back at the places and people that passed the years with him. The lines in his face and the gravel in his voice are as authentic as any guitar he crafts in his workshop. He’s seventy-one, battled some health issues, and lost the love of his life. However, he hasn’t lost his love of life and the simple pleasures that can be found every time you get back up and dust yourself off. He truly is like some desperado waiting for his train.
Like Cash, Nelson, Haggard, Kristofferson and a few others, his words have populated our landscape through his own recordings, and the recordings of others for so long they almost seem more public domain than contemporary. The songs of these writers have dust on them before the final words are even committed to paper. He’s never written big in the searching for the next hit sense, he writes close to the heart and allows the listener to find themselves, or others, in the verses. Most of his songs don’t have beginnings or endings in the traditional sense. They are mostly observations of universal truths that he can articulate in a fraction of the words most others use. The way he accentuates a word can carry more weight than the entire verse around it. He can turn a thought into a phrase before you realize what just happened. An entire song can be just a glance across a room at a loved one, a dream of old whiskey, or the flickering memory of a mentor that has been lost to time.
He calls on some of his longtime collaborators and musicians and the ambience is late night living room with old stuffed furniture, a dog that keeps acting like he hears something but doesn’t want to miss a note, a fire and some bottles just within reach. Verlon Thompson, Shawn Camp, Bryn Davies and Clark handle nearly all of the stringed instruments while a few gals assist on a vocal here and there. Of the eleven tracks here there are no clunkers and nothing to skip over. If anything it’s one of the shortest forty four minutes you’ll ever experience. It goes down smooth, but you’ll find yourself connected to more than a few lines, a killer chorus, or some guitar licks long after the disc stops spinning. The repeat button will be your new best friend.
This is only his twelfth studio album since his debut in 1975. His output has always been one of quality, not quantity and he’s never really strayed too far from his signature hybrid approach of talking-singing Texas acoustic blues. Every drink, smoke, tear and mile on him is still floating around in these new songs. He keeps it real, and that isn’t hard for him. He’s just doing what comes natural. I’m going to go so far as to say this is one of his best albums. Words don’t fail him and the melodies wrap around those words in such a way that you can’t tell which came first. There is an undeniable vibe here that moves from song to song and lets you know each song is a part of the whole, not just some unconnected songs to call a new album. He clearly still feels it.
When you file this disc on your shelf notice how close it is to the last recordings of Johnny Cash and it will seem like the most natural fit in the world. He may be aging, but he’s still capable of making music for the ages.