The Essential Guy Clark
By combing the black humor and erudite sensibilities of the literary world with the no-bull ethos of cowboy culture, Guy Clark cultivated an alternative identity for Texas songwriters. While not a “best of” collection, The Essential Guy Clark pairs Clark’s first two LPs, 1975’s Old No. 1 and 1976’s Texas Cookin’. Even though his buddies Jerry Jeff Walker and Townes Van Zandt had already released albums, Clark was no late bloomer. He was the oldest in that group, and in many ways was its leader. His songs became the model for a new kind of poetic Texas country music. “Texas 1947,” “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train” became Clark’s signatures, but all of the songs here contain vivid scenes and unforgettable characters. Neil Wilburn’s production strikes an easy balance between straightforward C&W and off-the-cuff jamming. There is an entire town lurking in these songs, which feature contributions from Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Gimble, and Steve Earle, to name just a few. This collection is a rare opportunity to hear the master songwriter in his waning youth, surrounded by his favorite untamed company.