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Better Days

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Album Review

No one can accuse Guy Clark of rushing. 1983 saw the release of his fifth album since 1975 and his first in two years. Not exactly cranking them out at Waylon's and Willie's pace, Clark is far more concerned with his conception of quality. And Better Days proved two things: not only that Clark was a writer of fine songs that other people had hits with, but that he was a viable commercial entity on his own. Once again produced by Rodney Crowell, who had struck pay dirt with his productions of Rosanne Cash's hit records and his own Diamonds & Dirt, Better Days was a Clark record that set and broke the mold simultaneously. Back in Nashville after recording South Coast of Texas in L.A., Crowell assembled a crack team for the set, including Vince Gill, who not only was making his name as a vocalist but also as a fine guitarist. Gill holds down the lead chair on this set by himself. Crowell, Johnny Gimble, Emory Gordy, Hank DeVito, and Reggie Young also helped out as did the late Larrie Londin on drums. Clark scored his first hit single with "Homegrown Tomatoes," a radio-friendly, easy-drawling, silly little catchy tune that Clark liked despite its relatively light weight. But it was enough. Like "Rita Ballou" in second gear, the plucked steel strings, the muted percussion, and Clark's elegant phrasing make it the most summery tune he's ever written. But there are better songs here such as his cover of Townes Van Zandt's "No Deal," the title track, "Supply and Demand," and the chilling, deeply moving, hunted "Randall Knife," an elegy for Clark's father. The song had been part of his live repertoire for some time but until now hadn't been recorded. It closes the record with the most astonishing silence, one that roars in the listener's ears long after the record is over and haunts her for the rest of the day. By Better Days, Clark, who was already a fine and polished songwriter, had arrived at the full possession of his power as a storyteller, ironst, and musing philosopher of song.


Born: 06 November 1941 in Monahans, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Guy Clark didn't just write songs, he crafted them, with the kind of hands-on care and respect that a master carpenter (a favorite image of his) would when faced with a stack of rare hardwood. Clark worked slowly and with strict attention to detail -- he released only 13 studio albums in his 40-year career -- but he produced an impressive collection of timeless gems, leaving very little waste behind. His albums never met much commercial success, but the emotional level of his work consistently transcended...
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