Guy Clark was a master songwriter. Every obituary lists him as a songwriter’s songwriter or a craftsman. Both are true. He wrote songs with well-built interiors, structures that make it easy on a listener – the craft invisible, the words and melody all yours to enjoy. Songs without superfluous words. “If I can get just get off of this L.A. freeway / without getting killed or caught.” In a sentence, we’re in a mind, a place, a want.
His writing, as most great songwriting, bloomed in performance. Here, his voice’s timbre endowed lines with rugged pathos: “I wish I was in Austin / in the Chili Parlor Bar / drinking Mad Dog margaritas / and not wondering where you are.” Or, “I entrusted my love to the kindness of strangers” – and rejoin with a guttural logic – “Oooooh, I was so naïve.” Songs like furniture, the better built the longer they last.