Guy Clark is a superlative songwriter, a fine and thoughtful vocalist, and a compelling live performer, so it's a bit surprising that he hasn't released more live recordings, which would allow him to show off these three talents to their best advantage. Songs and Stories is only the second live album of Clark's career, coming 14 years after 1997's excellent Keepers, and there are some telling similarities between the two albums. Guitarist Verlon Thompson is still the anchor of Clark's acoustic band, Kenny Malone is still playing percussion, and both sets begin with the song "L.A. Freeway" from the earlier live collection. Songs and Stories is dominated by hardy perennials from Clark's songbook such as "Dublin Blues," "The Randall Knife," and "Homegrown Tomatoes." However, while Keepers captured Clark at a near ideal point in his career -- seasoned enough that he had become a top-notch performer but still lively and in strong voice -- Songs and Stories documents him at 70 years of age, and his voice is rougher and his vocals less supple than they once were, though he still has the presence to hold an audience in the palm of his hand and a band that serves the songs beautifully. And along with a paucity of recent material, this album also finds Clark taking an intermission at the set's mid-point, with Thompson and Shawn Camp taking over the show for four songs (a considerable percentage when Clark only sings nine). While Keepers captured Clark on a great night when he sounded fully engaged, Songs and Stories suggests he's coasting just a bit, and though he's still one of the true legends of the Texas songwriting community, this simply doesn't capture him at the top of his game.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming