Guy Clark's Warner Brothers album The South Coast of Texas was issued in 1981. Rodney Crowell, Clark's Houston running partner, produced. It was before Crowell struck pay dirt producing his then wife Rosanne Cash or landing his own platinum records, which made this a big record for both men. Recorded in Los Angeles instead of Nash Vegas, Crowell was trying something that would affect his career in a very positive way when handling the production duties on Rosanne's records. The South Coast of Texas boasted a new slew of studio masters including Emory Gordy, Richard Bennett, Hank DeVito, Glen D. Hardin, the late drummer Larrie Londin, Rosanne Cash, Ricky Skaggs, and Pure Prairie League frontman and guitarist Vince Gill -- completely unknown in Nash Vegas. Moving toward a more basic but electric approach, Crowell and Clark ran through a deck of songs that reflected Clark's attention to minute, even painstaking detail. The pair recut "Rita Ballou" from Clark's first album, making it sizzle and pop with a run of guitars and pedal steel. In addition, Clark's version of his own "Heartbroke" appeared here. While it received airplay, it wasn't until Ricky Skaggs recorded it a year later (he sang backup on the original) that it was a hit, going to the top of the country charts. The Clark/Crowell co-write, "She's Crazy for Leavin'," was among the most commercial songs Clark ever wrote, but it was also one of the most poignant. (Crowell hit pay dirt with it in 1988 on his own record.) "Crystelle" with Rosanne Cash is a stunner with its cascading chorus and haunting refrain, and "New Cut Road" is classic Clark, all masculine and unsentimental yet nonetheless reflecting a kind of folky tenderness that lies at the heart of his best work. South Coast of Texas was a transition album toward the mature Clark style, one that was first to emerge on his next album, Better Days. It's not a landmark in his catalog, but neither is it anything that could remotely be considered a failure.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek