Al’s Pour House was a working-class bar on the main drag in our central Wisconsin town. People went there for a shot and a beer … or five or six.
My pal Marty tended bar at Al’s, so we were there often. We were 19 or 20 then, a time when the drinking age was 18. We got quite an education, in just about every way you can imagine.
Part of that education came from the jukebox, which ran heavy on outlaw country. Those lived-in voices gave us kids some clues about making your way through life, about dealing with The Man.
Johnny Cash is gone now. Waylon Jennings, too. So is Johnny Paycheck. Who’s that voice of experience now? Still gotta deal with The Man. Still gotta make our way through life.
Guy Clark has come along with that kind of a record. “Somedays The Song Writes You” points the way for those of us still needing direction.
I don’t know about you, but I still can use some guidance, especially from a 67-year-old guy from West Texas who has one of those lived-in voices — and who happens to be one of America’s finest songwriters.
I didn’t know much about Clark, but cut after cut on this record took me back to those long-ago nights at Al’s, sitting on a stool, soaking in the wisdom of those outlaw elders. Dig ’em.
“Hemingway’s Whiskey” and “The Guitar,” Guy Clark, from “Somedays The Song Writes You,” 2009. The former is Clark’s nod to one of his elders. The latter is just one of those great country stories.
They’re from one of the best records of the year.
Wish I could say that about Charlie Robison’s record, “Beautiful Day.” It’s an album written in the wake of his divorce from his wife, Emily, she of the Dixie Chicks. I like Robison and don’t doubt his pain, but he’s just too young. Give him another 30 years, after his voice gets lived in.
“Yellow Blues,” Charlie Robison, from “Beautiful Day,” 2009. A nasty little bit of psychedelic country that I’d love to hear with a stripped-down, acoustic arrangement.