The songwriterâ€™s craft of juxtaposing words to describe a person, scene or situation or to communicate a feeling is only the surface of a process that starts deep within. The ability to step outside oneâ€™s own moment to describe whatâ€™s happening or happened, to recognize, observe and frame an experience in which one may be an active participant, is the more ephemeral side of songwriting. Itâ€™s something that few do as well as Guy Clark, and married to finely selected words, his songs provide uncommonly detailed and communicative windows into moments and people who might otherwise pass unobserved.
In the title song, Clark addresses the alchemical process of songwriting. He notes that songs often appear to songwriters from thin air to exert themselves into being. But with a writer of Clarkâ€™s caliber, years of practice has left him open to divine these works, to snatch a moment of consciousness out of the rushing river of living. On â€œHemingwayâ€™s Whiskeyâ€ he communes writer to writer about the debilitating muse, offering a personal glimpse into the pain of writing, and a picture of drinking as a chronic enabler rather than the classic reactive salve to lost love. Clark is equally effective sketching the seedy side of town, conjuring the scene of a seafarerâ€™s final voyage, and animating a pawn shop guitar. The latterâ€™s twist ending is laid in a lovely flurry of acoustic finger picking.
The album is filled with lush acoustic playing from Clark and Verlon Thompson, and the rhythms of Kenny Malone (drums) and Bryn Davies (bass) provide a stable but subtle bottom end. Clarkâ€™s voice has weathered over the years, and though itâ€™s never been the prettiest or most melodic instrument, itâ€™s filled with emotion, particularly when covering his late friend Townes Van Zandtâ€™s â€œIf I Needed You.â€ His co-writes with Rodney Crowell, Shawn Camp, Gary Nicholson, as well as several up-and-coming writers, bring together two generations of his disciples. Clarkâ€™s long been a â€œsongwriterâ€™s songwriter,â€ but heâ€™s never stopped working on his craft, and the results are plain to hear on this latest release. [Â©2009 hyperbolium dot com]