Thursday, September 24, 2009

Guy Clark at the Belcourt Theatre

Cross another line off the bucket list. I finally got to see long-time singer-songwriter Guy Clark at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville last night.

Guy has been writing songs about as long as I've been alive. But I've really only become a regular listener and fan the last three or four years. He's probably best known for his song L.A. Freeway - but as the songwriter not as the singer. Jerry Jeff Walker covered it in the early 1970s, and it became his signature song.

Guy is getting up in years, but he and his band were on their game. They performed in a bit of a unique setting. Rather than everyone stand at microphone stands all evening, they sat in chairs and snugged the mics up to sing or to amplify their instruments. He said that's how they recorded the CD so they figured they might as well perform that way as well. During the show, guitarist Verlon Thompson was so casual at times he just propped his boot heels on his monitor as he strummed along and sang harmony vocals.

Guy played 2 sets for a total of about 2 hours - pretty good for a well-traveled man well into his 60s. Set 1 was a top to bottom look at his new CD Sometimes The Song Writes You. He proved yet again his songwriting skills have aged over time as well as a barrel of Tennessee sour mash.

Guy and the band returned after a brief intermission, and he immediately turned the next few songs over to guitarist Verlon Thompson and multi-instrumentalist Shawn Camp. These two guys blew me away with their picking, singing, and song choices.

Shawn, who played mandolin, violin, and slide during Guy's songs, picked up his guitar to play Sis Draper and Magnolia Wind - a song he co-wrote with Guy. Instead of singing it with him, Guy kicked back, turned over the stage to Shawn and Verlon for this one, crossed his arms, and smiled wryly as they played. Here's a clip of Shawn playing it a while back - not from last night - but you'll get the idea.

Then it was Verlon Thompson's turn. He played Joe Walker's Mare and had the audience cheering like crazy when he was done. Here again is a video of him playing the song - albeit not from last night. It will still give you an idea of what an amazing geetahr picker Verlon really is.

Some other highlights from last night include:

I met a guy who moved to middle Tennessee about a year ago after a lifetime in California. He and his wife have followed Guy for over 20 years. He said they used to go to the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. One year, he got to hang out a bit with Townes Van Zandt and a number of other performers in Townes' motor home. After he left for the evening, he awoke to find out Townes was still stirring around 3 AM, had gotten behind the wheel of the motor home, and then promptly ran over the ticket kiosk.

In introducing his cover of Townes' If I Needed You, Guy said "This next song was written by Townes Van Zandt. Townes couldn't be with us tonight." It was a joke at which we could all laugh. The song includes a stanza that reads:
The lady's with me now since I showed her how
To lay her lily hand in mine
Loop and Lil agree she's a sight to see
And a treasure for the poor to find
Guy said Loop and Lil were Townes' parakeets and said he used to take them on airplanes tucked inside the pockets of his sport coat. He said he picked him up one time from the Nashville airport and Townes was sporting a grin as his jacket was flapping from the birds trying to get out.

Verlon Thompson sang a song about his mama called Darwettia's Mandolin. In the song, he refers to Greasy Bend, Oklahoma. He said its area along the river that got its name after some hog farmers and watermelon farmers got into a scrap. The story goes that after the battle the river's edge was covered in dead pigs and watermelon rinds. The whole theater was laughing.

As the show started winding down, folks started yelling out requests. Guy tried to talk over most of them, and he did agree to play a few of them. Someone up front meekly said Randall Knife, and he immediately said he'd do that one. He went immediately into it without accompaniment from the band. At the end he got a standing ovation for it, and he seemed to even shed a quick tear in acknowledgment and the memory of his dad.

Guy closed his show with a song titled Boats To Build he co-wrote with Rodney Crowell. The song was inspired by songwriter Richard Lee's boat-building hobby. Richard wrote the song Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue. Crystal Gayle turned it into her best-known country hit. Guy said "let me tell you a little secret. Richard wrote that song for his dog who had glaucoma. But I don't think he ever told Crystal Gayle."

A great night of music. I'm sorry I missed listening to him the last quarter-century, but I'm glad I'm making up for it now.

I've also learned the show was taped last night and will likely be uploaded for sharing by early next week. Let me know if you are interested in the show, and I'll help point you in the right direction once it becomes available.


1 comment:

  1. It was an amazing evening of music. Thanks for an in-depth report. You have a great memory!