Monday, February 20, 2006

Chicago too cold for a couple of Texas Old Timers

Guy Clark was born in 1941, four years before my mom but last night he looked like he could be her grandfather. He was a bit of a curmudgeon-y swellhead to boot, that fit his cowboy persona just fine.

I was surprised to find out this morning that he is only 65. As a musician, I'm a tad disappointed. The older I get the more I enjoy watching older musicians perform. It gives me a sense of security about my own musical longevity. But during his set I thought well hell if this octogenarian can still pluck and holler, I got some years left with my good friend Mr. Telecaster. Not that Guy Clark fully mastered his vocal cords or guitar last night. He was rough around the edges and wouldn't perform some of his more challenging vocal stuff such as "Desperados Waiting for a Train." Like Terry Allen before him, he blamed the cold weather. He did however perform a brand new song for which, he claimed, we were the first audience. It was a story-song (Mr. Clark is a diciple of Townes Van Zandt's narrative songwriting style) about celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Memphis. I really enjoyed that. If Guy Clark hasn't aged well at least he has proven that you can still whip up a good tune while collecting Social Security.

Guy Clark brought along his long time writing/playing partner, Verlon Thompson. Verlon was the surprise hit of the show. He accompanied Guy Clark competently, playing the part of the good sidekick as well as Cervantes could have written it. Towards the end of the set Guy Clark sat down looking tired, giving up the spotlight to Mr. Thompson. Verlon Thompson ripped into a fast picking tune of his own which brought the loudest applause of the night. After that he did an a capella song that fit very well after the blue grass-ey piece. It was a beautiful song about couples that wasn't too sappy you'd want to vomit. He did one more number called "Lucky Dog" which he claimed was recorded by Johnny Cash but never released. I couldn't tell if that was true or just a set up to an excellent Johnny Cash impersonation but either way it stole the show. Guy Clark was noble to bring this guy along. Verlon Thompson added some needed pizazz. Their Quixotic companionship was enjoyable to watch as well.

Guy Clark's set started with Terry Allen accompanying on piano for a song they wrote together about Terry Allen's dog getting shot and killed on New Year's Day 1999. It was a good segue between the sets. For his performance, Terry Allen stuck to the piano which was unfortunate for me because I ended up with a nice view of Mr. Allen's backside. Terry Allen also complained about the cold. He started songs over more than once. He didn't do much to endear himself to the audience (calling them idiots for living with cold weather). Somehow he managed to get a good set out of it. Perhaps the audience was a bit more scrutinizing then they would have been if he wasn't complainin'. He didn't receive a strong applause except for a couple of comical numbers, "Peggy Leg" and "Crisis Site 13." He only did one song off of "Lubbock (on everything)" which is the album I'm most familiar with. But that's okay I'll take it. Terry was asked to perform an encore as was Guy Clark but neither artist did. Grumpy old men don't need adoration.

The cold might make the old appear older but they're still kicking and I'm glad for that. Thank you Robbie Fulks once again for this great series, Secret Country, which by the way is recorded and hosted on XM Radio, check it out.

*photo courtesy of Guy Clark's Official Site.

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