If the US government handed out grants and awards for artists who qualified as cultural heroes Guy Clark would be a sure-fire recipient. He not only writes classic tunes such as "L.A. Freeway," "Desperados Waiting for A Train," and The Randall Knife," but also builds fine acoustic guitars. On Workbench Songs we have an opportunity to see and hear the fruits of both his creative outlets.
Having just completed his tenth acoustic guitar, modeled after a 12-fret body slotted headstock pre-war Martin, Clark christened it with eleven new songs. Nine of the tunes are co-written efforts, penned by Clark with the assistance of Rodney Crowell, Steve Nelson, Verlon Thompson, Gary Nicholson, Lee Roy Parnell, and Darrell Scott. One Townes Van Zandt song, "No Lonesome Tune," and the traditional tune "Diamond Joe" complete the album roster. Each and every tune exudes the stamp of Texas authenticity that personifies a Guy Clark performance. He sounds completely relaxed yet intense, so that every song arrives with a bang in a way that few other singers can muster. Clark's reading of "Out in the Parking Lot," which can also be heard on co-writer Darrell Scott's latest release, has a majestic and cinematic color that Scott misses on his rendition.
In his usual fashion Clark has assembled a fine group of backing musicians for Workbench Songs. Verlon Thompson and Shawn Camp play acoustic guitars and contribute backing vocals, Jamie Hartford plays mandolin, Chris Latham plays violin and viola, Eddie Byers plays drums, Bryn Bright plays cello, acoustic bass and sings harmony vocals, and Morgan Hayes adds some harmony vocals. Co-produced by Clark, Thompson, and Latham, and recorded primarily at the EMI Music Publishing Studio, Workbench Songs has a stripped-down sound with simple acoustic arrangements where one fiddle or cello serves instead of multiple tracks.
When I think of great things from Texas I think of T.O. Stanley boots, Collings guitars, and Guy Clark. Not to beat around the (George) Bush, Workbench Songs makes up for most of Texas' less positive contributions to American culture.