A good share of Guy Clark's songs bring to life remembrances of his childhood in a small Texas town. At the Birchmere Saturday night, Clark's storytelling -- rye, naturalistic and powerfully evocative in its real life detail -- conjured dramatic images of the same kind of small town Westerners who inhabited the movie, "The Last Picture Show."
Clark's reputation as a songwriter's songwriter is well-deserved and his material, widely covered by country artists, can be tragically poignant or, in the case of the comic "Home Grown Tomatoes," or the funky "Texas Cookin'," just plain whimsical. It was nice to hear Clark sing his own "Heartbroke." In Ricky Skaggs' hands, the song was a sleak piece of country pop and a national hit. In Clark's hands it was a rough-hewn folk jam and a memorable philosophy.
The power of Clark's songs did not simply reside in the colorful panolpy of aging gunfighters, alcoholics, loose women and working class heroes that grace his tunes. In Clark's rough drawling voice, direct delivery and conversational nuance, there was an unquestionable integrity that made it clear these characters were real and touched his life. In fact, "Let Him Role," his tale of a broken-hearted wino headed for the grave, was so convincing that a hushed solmenity fell over the audience as though one of their own family had passed away.