Guy Clark: Live Review Hank’s Texas Grill in McKinney TX

Guy Clark made a stop on his current tour at Hank’s Texas Grill in McKinney Wednesday night (11/8/12), and brought with him a friend, fellow guitarist, and songwriter Verlon Thompson. The audience rose in standing ovation when Clark cane onto the stage and again when the set was over.

Clark has been making great music for decades, and no telling how many people have recorded him over the past 50-some-odd years. Some songs have remained obscure, but they are in the minority.

Guy started out with four new songs, not yet recorded, the first noting the combination of  keen wit and genuine gut feeling, “I’ll Show Me.”  That’s the way of so many of this songwriting master’s musical missives — plays on words that hit right smack dab in the middle of the heart. It’s his songwriting that people mostly associate with Guy Clark, and when someone in the audience would call out a request, that weathered face simply smiled, nodded, and said, “OK.” No set list in hand, this allowed him to be more accommodating to the fans.

And the lyrics! (1) Blow the tattoo off of your arm and the paint right off your barn, (2) Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel, the kind of stuff you reach for when you fall, (3) …life is just a leap of faith, spread your arms, hold your breath, and always trust your cape,” and maybe the most quoted, (4) “There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and home grown tomatoes.”

Clark’s guitar picking is simple and clean, mostly produced with his specially-handmade thumbpick against his “hot rod Martin” guitar. No need for a pick guard — Clark’s fingers never hit the wood, just the strings.

Vernon Thompson

Thompson toned down his strokes and harmonies  on the slower ballads, hunkered and hushed when Clark sang the very personal “Randall Knife,” and then on “Homegrown Tomatoes,” both guitars and voices  walked their way through the lyrics. Together they played “Texas Tornado” with guitars emphasizing the rise-and-fall motion of a Texas tornado.

The arrangements were different, too, than on his recordings. Guy Clark sang with more emotional emphasis, changing the tempo of a song if need be to make his point. It was as if he knew there wasn’t a record producer in the picture, and he didn’t have to make these arrangements “radio ready.” Instead, he punctuated the lines… “To me he’s one of the heroes of this country, so why’s he all dressed up like them old men,” or “So we just closed our eyes and dreamed us up a kitchen.” He closed his own eyes on that, as if in contemplation, knowing he’s nearing the age of his old friend in “Desperadoes Waiting For a Train.” (“Run his fingers through 70 years of living….”)

And there were times that Clark would forget the lyrics to the song he was delivering. He’s stop, think a minute, and once said, “I’ve sang this a million times, a million times.” As the lyrics said, “And he lost the thread and his mind got cluttered, and the words just rolled off down in the gutter,” and then he’d start again. That particular song was “Let Him Roll,” and the fans did just that, they let him roll.

The honor of being there for a live performance from an acknowledged master of music was enough, no need to forgive him. There’s reasons why Guy Clark is a legend, and those could be because he’s wise, charming, tenacious, over-the-top talented, and one of the heroes of the music country.

~ Mary Jane Farmer  (Photos also by Mary Jane Farmer)

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