Guy Clark’s live album Songs and Stories has an easy charm about it, breathtakingly simple and refreshingly rustic. Recorded at Nashville’s Belcourt Theater, Songs and Stories is storytelling at its best, nostalgic and poignant without ever becoming maudlin. Tenderly crafted and poetic, Clark’s songs are descriptive of an era just beyond the reach of our modern collective consciousness, a time when homegrown tomatoes and freeway driving were enough to set your soul free.
Clark starts his set by telling a story in his familiar, down-home drawl. “If I Needed You” follows, understated but firm. Unmistakably Texan in every phrase both melodic and syntactical, Clark is a raconteur par excellence, especially in numbers like “The Cape”, a tale of a dreamer learning to fly. Reminiscent of contemporary short fiction in its childhood-haunts-adult-life theme, this track highlights Clark’s incredible ability to truly speak to his listeners. You might even feel like Clark is an old friend, telling you his story by the fireside in your living room. He goes on to introduce his stagemates, a trend he follows throughout the album, sharing the spotlight with his fellow artists, all talented and creative. “Darwettia’s Mandolin” is another stellar slice of storytime, a Wild West tale of a musical tradition – much like Clark’s own musical tradition.
So what makes Guy Clark different from other country singers from the South?
There’s something intangible about him – some of it because of his weathered, true voice. Some is certainly because of his flying fingers and his amazing command over his guitar. Perhaps it’s his choice of backup singers and instrumentalists – all fantastic in their own right.
One could argue, however, that it’s none of these things – or even all of them. Clark sets himself apart from other artists by transcending generalizations and categorizations that fans and critics alike may apply to him.
Honest, raw and capable of reaching straight through you, Songs and Stories will speak to you, whether you want it to or not.