Cold Dog Soup
Guy ClarkSH CD1063
Sugar Hill Records
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Let's start with the conclusion: Cold Dog Soup is Clark's best CD to date. The ambience of the recording is so comfortable that you have the feeling you are in the middle of the three players, Clark, Verlon Thompson and Darrell Scott, plus Chris Latham, who along with the previous three, are credited as producers of the CD. Clark has always been a songwriter of high standards, but somehow each time he went into the studio it seemed like he was forced to do it, and that he'd have preferred to have lived in the nineteenth century, roaming from town to town playing his music. His previous live album, Keeper, came closer to giving us an idea of how good a performer he is. But it is this album, with Clark in his New Balance sneakers, and seeing the picture of the three players, that you can feel his songs come alive in your room.
This album, as many others these days, is haunted by the shadow of Saint Townes the singer (a.k.a Townes Van Zandt). The first song, Cold Dog Soup, is the story of a hotel where Yeats, Tom Waits, Kerouac and Townes all met thirty years ago, and holds in it unforgettable lines like this one:
|There is no money in poetry |
That's what sets the poet free
As a poet myself, I have said this before - Clark is so precise in these two lines, that when I want to express this idea, I will just quote him.
Fort Worth Blues, with Emmylou Harris on harmony vocals, is a Steve Earle song about Townes Van Zandt:
|You used to say the highway was your home |
But we both know that ain't true
It's just the place a man can go
When He don't know where he's traveling to
I feel that I could go on from quotation to quotation of memorable lines on this CD, until I give you the whole booklet. The CD has a very acoustic sound, with no drums, just acoustic guitars, mandolin mandocello, and dobro. Most songs are Clark collaborations with other songwriters like Shawn Camp, Jon Randall Stewart and others. There are also three covers, the previously mentioned Steve Earle song, Be Gone Forever by Keith Sykes and Anna McGarrigle, and a very good choice, Richard Dobson's Forever, For Always, For Certain. Dobson co-wrote Old Friends with Clark and deserves to be better known in the States.
This is not only Clark's best CD to date, but also one of the top ten CDs of 1999. Happy new century; may the music be good.
Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz