Guy Clark

Craftsman

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This double-CD collection issued by Rounder's Philo imprint contains on a double CD all three of Guy Clark's late-'70s and '80s recordings for Warner Bros.: Guy Clark, South Coast of Texas, and Better Days. Clark's Warner period was one of intense self-scrutiny and exploration, not only with the way songs are written, but also in the way they are recorded. In terms of experiment and adventure, these are the most sonically interesting of Clark's records. While some of these titles seemed odd at the time, particularly the self-titled album, in retrospect they more than hold their own and prove to be ahead of what some are doing even now. As for the tracks themselves, this was a fruitful, if difficult, period for Clark. While his biggest hit, "Homegrown Tomatoes," is here, so is the redo of "Rita Ballou," "New Cut Road," and the original recorded version of "Randall Knife," far spookier and more haunted than the redo on Dublin Blues. In addition, there are a few covers here that Clark had been loathe to cut while on RCA, and these include Townes Van Zandt's "Don't You Take It Too Bad" and "No Deal," as well as a stellar modern version of Jimmie Rodgers' "In the Jailhouse Now." Also there are a pair of collaborations with fellow Houstonian Rodney Crowell in "The Partner Nobody Chose" and "She's Crazy for Leavin'." Clark always surrounded himself with fine musicians and this trio of albums was no exception -- everyone from Emmylou Harris and Rosanne Cash to Crowell, Verlon Thompson, Kenny Malone, David Briggs, and dozens more appear on them. In many ways, because of the heady work Clark had issued before and after these Warner recordings, this trio has become somewhat of a cipher in his catalog, as part of some misguided apocrypha. This impression is simply erroneous and can be proven so with even the most casual listen. These 30 songs are as integral to Guy Clark's body of work than anything else he has ever issued.

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