Wednesday, 24 June 2015

“Guy Clark/The South Coast Of Texas/Better Days” by GUY CLARK (2015 Beat Goes On 2CD Set – Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

“...Lone Star Hotel...”

With his first two favourably-received albums under his belt at RCA Records – “Old No.1” in August 1975 and “Texas Cookin’” in October 1976 – Singer-songwriter GUY CLARK signed a new deal with Warner Brothers and slowly sneaked out this trio of affectionately-remembered Country LPs across the next five years (1978, 1981 and 1983). Quickly acquiring a reputation as a Texas-Born Troubadour down with the drunks, the broken marriages and the outlaw fringes of society – Guy Clark saw his biggest chart success in the early Eighties. But more than that - his albums (like those of say John Hiatt, Chris Smither and John Prine) were also greeted with huge affection by other artists and became a wellspring – a provider of catchy tunes for the likes of Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Waylon Jennings, Nicolette Larson, Emmylou Harris and Ricky Scaggs (to name but a few). Fellow Texan and lifelong friend Rodney Crowell produced both the 80’s LPs – co-writing “The Partner Nobody Chose” and the US Country No.1 “She’s Crazy For Leavin’” on “The South Coast Of Texas” album.

England’s Beat Goes On Label has licensed these three long-deleted albums from WEA and presents them here in their usual classy way – a card slipcase, quality remastered sound and decent liner notes. There’s a lot on offer – so let’s get to the jailhouse now...

UK released June 2015 (July 2015 in the USA) – “Guy Clark/The South Coast Of Texas/Better Days” by GUY CLARK on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1190 (Barcode 5017261211903) provides 3LPs onto 2CDs and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (69:29 minutes):
1. Fool On The Roof
2. Fools For Each Other
3. Shade Of All Greens
4. Voila, An American Dream
5. One Paper Kid
6. In The Jailhouse Now [Side 2]
7. Comfort And Crazy
8. Don’t You Take It Too Bad
9. The Houston Kid
10. Fool On The Roof Blues
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 3rd studio album “Guy Clark” – released May 1978 in the USA on Warner Brothers BSK 3241 and in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56565

11. Who Do You Think You Are
12. Crystelle
13. New Cut Road
14. Rita Ballou
15. South Coast Of Texas
16. Heartbroke [Side 2]
17. The Partner Nobody Chose
18. She’s Crazy For Leavin’
19. Calf-Rope
20. Lone Star Hotel
Tracks 11 to 20 are his 4th studio album “The South Coast Of Texas” – released February 1981 in the USA on Warner Brothers BSK 3381 and in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56902.  

Disc 2 (31:30 minutes):
1. Blowin’ Like A Bandit
2. Better Days
3. Homegrown Tomatoes
4. Supply & Demand
5. The Randall Knife
6. The Carpenter [Side 2]
7. Uncertain Texas
8. No Deal
9. Tears
10. Fool In The Mirror
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 5th studio album “Better Days” – released 1983 in the USA and Europe on Warner Brothers 9 23880-1.

The card slipcase that is now standard with all BGO releases lends the whole thing a classy feel and look while the pleasingly chunky 24-page booklet features the original album credits, inner sleeve artwork spread across the text and the lyrics to all three records at the rear. Inbetween is a typically superb and detailed analysis of his whole career by noted-writer and long-time BGO-collaborator JOHN O’REGAN. The “Better Days” album sleeve is used as the back inlay on the inside. The remasters are by ANDREW THOMPSON and sound gorgeous – the production values of NEIL WILBURN (“Guy Clark”) and RODNEY CROWELL (the other two) shining through – not to mention the long line of quality players including names like Buddy Emmons, Albert Lee, Don Everly and KT Oslin.

The self-titled Warner Brothers debut has six Clark originals with the other four being covers of old and new songs – “In The Jailhouse Now” (Jimmie Rogers), “Voila, An American Dream” (Rodney Crowell), “One Paper Kid” (Walter Cowart) and “Don’t You Take It Too Bad” (Townes Van Zandt). Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell and Irishman Phillip Donnelly provide the acoustic and electric guitars for most tunes but England’s Albert Lee puts in lead (once with Heads, Hands & Feet and later The Crickets). And along with Dave Briggs and the legendary Buddy Emmons on Pedal Steel Guitars and Mickey Raphael on Harmonica – the sound was slicker and dare-we-say-it more radio-friendly Country than that of the first two records. There are a lot of broken-hearted lovers in these tunes and people who are just plain out of luck – the accusations fly in slyly lovely “Fools For Each Other” as Clark croons with a side-order of blasé “...who took off when their heart got broke...” while an innocent local dreamer is taken out by a drunk-driver in “One Paper Kid” and now sings in a place where “’s legal to dream...” The prettiness of “Shade Of All Greens” is about as languid as Country Rock gets with Buddy Emmons adding so much to the song as he slides up and own those pedal steel strings in the background. For me one of the album highlights is the sad yet hopeful “One Paper Kid” which Emmylou Harris would cover that year on her “Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town”. Side Two opens with Jimmie Rogers’s fun as he camps up the pace with “In The Jailhouse Now” which the Coens would have Tim Blake Nelson sing in their 2000 movie “O, Brother Where Art Thou?” (as “The Soggy Bottom Boys”). Soft and gentle comes at you twice on Side 2 – his own “Comfort And Crazy” and his delicious cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Don’t You Take It Too Bad” with both Don Brooks on Harmonica and Kay T. Oslin on Duet Vocals making the song.

His 4th album “The South Coast Of Texas” from 1981 saw some high-profile (soon to be stars) contributions – Ricky Scaggs plays Fiddle and sings on “Heartbroke”, Roseanne Cash sings on “Crystelle” and Vince Gills puts in Vocals too. Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band made up the backing musicians – Hank DeVito on Guitars, Ricky Scaggs on Fiddle, Emory Gordy and Glen Hardin on Keyboards. “The South Coast Of Texas” has pleasing tunes on it like the chipper “New Cut Road” and the line-dancing shuffle of “Rita Ballou” – but on the underage song “Crystelle” and the title track – there feels like some of the magic of the “Guy Clark” album is somehow lost. The almost poppy “Heartbroke” is a clear aim at commercial Country but again it feels ordinary – while I find it inexplicable as to why “She’s Crazy For Leavin’” made it to Number One. Perhaps his love for his wife Susanna Clark (his lifetime partner) imbibed the Warners debut with something special that the follow up three years later didn’t have.

The “Better Days” album opens with a winning melody “Blowin’ Like A Bandit” where taking a boat out to sea will guarantee all occupants become shark-bait in the morning (Reggie Young on Lead Guitar). Once again Vince Gill and Hank DeVito bring their guitars to the backing group and the remaster is gorgeous on the “Better Days” title track. Paul Kennerley (who worked a lot with The Judds) provides Bass Vocals on the ever-so-slightly hick “Homegrown Tomatoes” but better is the side finisher “The Randall Knife” where Clark sounds and sings like John Prine’s younger brother (a great storytelling song about his father). Crowell sings on “Uncertain Texas” where again he sounds like John Prine circa 1991’s “The Missing Years”. It ends on the funky guitar chug of “Fool In The Mirror” where he bemoans that he’s putting on a little bit of weight because his “baby’s gone”.

So there you have it – three good albums sounding real sweet on one 2CD quality remaster/reissue. In 2014 Guy Clark’s album “My Favorite Picture Of You” pulled the Grammy for ‘Best Folk Album Of The Year’.

20-albums into a 40-year career and still a class act...

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