Guy Clark: Workbench Songs (Dualtone)

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Guy Clark: Magdalene
Guy Clark: Workbench Songs (Dualtone)

Clark has been one of the pillars of West Texas/Mex-influenced singer-songwriters, and of his dozen or so albums at least half would be in any serious country and alt.country collection.

For this album he sometimes sounds much older than his 65 years, sometimes considerably younger.

That's a measure of how he puts himself into his carefully hewn lyrics (all here co-written with various fellow travellers in the genre). On songs like Funny Bone -- a cello-coloured, speak-sing piece which is an engrossingly sad narrative -- it sounds as if he is sitting on a broken-spring settee in the late afternoon telling you of someone he once knew. Elsewhere he gets metaphorical (Walkin' Man), pensive (Out in the Parkin' Lot), funny ("when you write your expose I wish you'd leave me out") and downhome (the traditional Diamond Joe in a duet with co-producer/mandolin player Verlon Thompson).

As has been his custom he also includes a song by his late friend and influence Townes Van Zandt: this time No Lonesome Tune given an appropriately world-weary treatment.

Analog Girl seems an unworthy lyric, but taken as a whole this is Clark as he has always been: unsensational and bone-bare, and offering sensitively observed tales of life.

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