GUY CLARK "Workbench Songs" Dualtone SLAID CLEAVES "Unsung" Rounder

Friday, October 20, 2006

GUY CLARK"Workbench Songs"DualtoneSLAID CLEAVES"Unsung"Rounder

YOU WON'T FIND GUY Clark surrounded by fellow luthiers when he's building a guitar at home these days. But at this stage in his remarkable 10-album career, the Texas legend isn't opposed to sitting down with a bunch of like-minded tunesmiths and crafting a few sturdy songs.

Which is just what his latest release has to offer: songs that will hold up over the long haul. Some are poignant ("Funny Bone"), others sound as if they were shrewdly composed during the golden age of western swing ("Worry B Gone") and still others ("Tornado Time in Texas") are so compact and vividly drawn that it's hard to miss Clark's signature. Even on paper, a few of these tales spring to life: "Tornado time in Texas / Take the paint right off of your barn / Tornado time in Texas / Blow the tattoo off of your arm / Hidin' in the cellar with cannin' jars / Sounds like a train up top / Hold your breath, peek outside / See what we ain't got."

Credit Verlon Thompson for co-writing that Lone Star scenario and for holding up his end of a chummy vocal duet on "Diamond Joe." Townes Van Zandt's "No Lonesome Tune," is included, too, but otherwise Guy had a hand in writing all the songs, with a big assist from Lee Roy Parnell, Rodney Crowell and others. The result isn't Clark's finest album, but it ranks in the top five, which is no small feat.

On "Unsung," singer-songwriter (and Texas transplant) Slaid Cleaves spends his time interpreting some of his favorite songs written by "my brothers and sisters in arms." David Olney is the best known of the lot, so it's not surprising that his outlaw narrative "Millionaire" outshines most of what's here. But Cleaves has taste to match his talent, and most of the tunesmiths represented on "Unsung," particularly Ana Egge, Karen Poston, JJ Baron and Michael O'Connor, certainly deserve the exposure.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Friday at the Birchmere.

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