BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Guy Clark’s death last May seemed particularly painful, even in light of all the others 2016 claimed as casualties. For the better part of 40 years, his worn, dusky narratives always seemed to be a kind of ill-fated prelude to an impending demise. His was a pervasive sadness that summoned both hope and heartache all at the same time and yet, it was a voice that spoke to the desperation and longing within all us. While it didn’t always emphasize optimism, it did make us feel like none of us are not alone, even in our bleakest moments.
Even so, there was always something singular about Clark’s delivery, as if he was an Everyman struggling to make sense of the lopsided world around him. In a career that spanned nearly two dozen albums, he wrote and sang songs that never failed to touch our emotions and pierce our souls. The Dualtone Years makes for an adequate sampler of sorts, but it doesn’t begun cover all his essential efforts.
Fortunately, the collection does boast enough singular songs to attract both the seasoned fan and the newly arrived novice. His most immortal classic, “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” isn’t included due to the fact it was on an album recorded for an earlier label, but having the equally iconic “L.A. Freeway” rendered in a live performance still suffices. Likewise, it’s nearly impossible to listen to the touching testimony of “The Randall Knife,” “My Favorite Picture of You” or his heartfelt take on pal Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You,” and not feel a proverbial lump in one’s throat.
The completist gets three bonus tracks in the form of unreleased demos at the end of the disc, and in these bare-boned renditions, his cracked cadence finds a natural fit. All in all, it’s a fitting requiem for a legacy so poignantly pursued.
DOWNLOAD: “The Randall Knife,” “My Favorite Picture of You,” “L.A. Freeway”