Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Josh Niles at Big Light, Nashville, Tennessee
It had been a long drive for Guy Clark, through the day and night, the day before this session taped in Nashville this winter. Around the noontime hour, Clark pulled up after getting lost a few times. We had plenty of coffee for him, but having to tell him that he couldn't smoke in the studio didn't go over well. He made due with the outdoors, but it was a rough start. Later that evening, I saw him out and I told him it had been an honor having him by the studio for the session and he brought up the prohibitive policy of the studio when it came to smoking, saying, "What kind of musicians are you anyway?" and then he walked away. We don't fault the man for his disappointment. He wants for few things and he's had too many things taken away from him over the years - friends and lovers are just the start of it - to feel like he should have to give anything else up, especially something so readily available as smokes. We took away his cigarettes and something tells me we'll pay for it dearly someday.
Guy Clark, playing here with Shawn Camp, puts all of his heartbreaking talents on display with a small collection of songs that highlights all of the "stuff you don't hang on the wall," along with plenty of the stuff that you can't hold onto even if you wanted to. People leave us and we're always aware of that. We've never liked it, especially when the leaving is so permanent. We are obligated to process and put up with the ways that the leavings happen. We lose everything we have sometimes.
Clark has lost everything he had way too many times for one man and his songs are magnificent country odes to loss - almost all of them. He describes the treachery of lonely nights. He sings about not wanting to feel a thing, ordering the bartender to pour him another one, believing it will be the greatest help toward that end. He writes about old friends and the things he can still put his trust in. He's a man who recognizes when he's at his worst and he knows that he can always blame himself for it, even if others can be implicated as fellow assailants.
He's familiar with many of the ways that one can organize a destruction and he dabbles. Sometimes he doubles down. He lives with ghosts and sometimes confuses them with angels. He sings here on "El Coyote," "Man, what have you done/You took all my money and left me to die in the heat of the South Texas sun," and he makes it feel like he's not all that mad. He'll get back what he can, knowing that no one ever gets it all back.