A Memory of Guy Clark

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Born in Monahans, Texas, on November 6th, 1941, the son of a lawyer and strong woman who would “cut your throat and drink your blood” if messed with, Guy Charles Clark grew up reading from and listening to the stories and poetry passed around in the books chosen for the evening rounds of literary entertainment. Bringing his talents to Nashville with his wife Susanna and Townes Van Zandt, he mentored a generation of smitten soul-hungry writers including Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Rosanne Cash, Joe Ely, and Lyle Lovett.

Having won a battle with cancer, Guy had been succumbing to failing health for several years. The writer of “Desperadoes Waiting on a Train,” “L.A. Freeway,” and “The Randall Knife,” Guy produced 13 studio albums, two of which were nominated for Grammys. A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Guy passed away Tuesday morning, May 17th, in Nashville at the age of 74.

I had met Guy Clark at a party. We were a couple of the early arrivals already out on the porch smoking. He introduced himself and then told me he had a joint that he needed to smoke … let me know that I was invited along. Any concerns I had about whether or not I would be subjected to a drug test faded fast. Cost of failing a drug test? A job. Getting high with Guy at his behest? Priceless. I was able to drink enough tequila for him to laugh at me and say “I love the new guys.”

He tolerated me for several visits. “I’m building guitars,” he would say, “I don’t care what you do.” I knew I was a babe in the presence of a giant. But I thought I might learn something–maybe soak up some of that wisdom and mastery just by being near him.

One night, after almost two big bottles of wine, he was bent over singing a song–a man in a trance. The room was dimly lit. There were several cigarette butts and roaches in his skull ashtray. He was leaning over his guitar with his eyes closed, his wiry eyebrows evidence of a hard and serious man. There was an energy in the room, his muse I guess. I knew to be silent–that to do or say anything to break the spell would be sacrilege. Suddenly Susanna called, “Guy?” “Guyyyy?” Whatever spirit was in the room quickly flew back into the wood of his workbench, the ashes, the near-empty wine glasses, and the wood shavings on the floor.

I don’t remember what Susanna needed. Guy answered her question and went back to his song. I believe if it had been me, if someone had interrupted me when I was that engaged in a song, I would have been polite but anxious to get back to my song. He was totally attentive and kind–a salty old sailor turned into a kitten in response to the woman he loved. I know I didn’t know him very well. I know a lot of people knew him better than I did. But I saw something that night that I believe deserves repeating. I thought I saw the face of Christ there where a dark and brooding poet lived.

Yes, he reminded me of what an amateur I was in comparison. For a moment I saw him as the timeless face of devotion and love. He’d probably scoff at me for saying that. Salty old fuck. He almost fooled me.

 

My Morning Jacket Stops the Rain

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Who is this guy? Standing on the side front lawn of his cozy Germantown home. Where is his family? Do they know their loved one is struck, standing outside like a turkey in the rain? Not quite there. This was probably just a spasm that happens every once in a while. Grandpa will disown his white hair and believe he is a fairy. The other fairies call him from the sky and he’s so seduced by their pleading choir that he actually gets out his chair to go outside and listen. He stands and listens to the sounds that fairies make.

It was supposed to storm this evening, when My Morning Jacket would reign in another sold-out hometown run — and again the following day — in Louisville’s only amphitheater venue at the overlooked, but righteous, Iroquois Park. And I was on my way to the show Thursday night when I saw that hopeless white man on his lawn staring at the sky. He could have been looking for the rain — hey grandpa, I’m was searching too. But it turns out even if the most essential item to bring that night was not an umbrella, but a supply of argon oil to accommodate all of that gorgeous frizz on stage, you’re still not allowed to bring umbrellas into the venue. Mine is somewhere in the bushes.

mmjcolorMMJ’s lush stage setup comprised of potted trees and arrangements of tulips, roses, and assorted blooms. It was my first time seeing My Morning Jacket in my 8 years of being a music fan living in Louisville — Gonzo Today asked me to write about the show based on this fact. The stage was so visually welcoming… I couldn’t expect to have an awful experience after seeing that. And thanks to an event volunteer named Kara, who handled the press people better than anyone else, I watched it in full frontal view.

The show, overall, felt like a long, warm hug after a cold bullshit-laden day. The hug lasted for just under two hours, and my editor (who was in attendance taking photos) said it was the “soberest” MMJ crowd he’d ever seen. While he got into some gonzo drama with the venue security, I tried to stay focused on what was going to happen on stage. The show had not even started before a security staff member berated him more than once for merely standing in the aisle, pre-show, and with visible photo credentials. Continue reading

The Short, Bitter Tale of Brother Roscoe

art by Joey Feldman

art by Joey Feldman

The boat sat anchored, barely visible from shore. On its deck a minister stood unsteadily and studied his surroundings – rain drizzled from above while agitated waves slapped the hull. Fins sliced through the swells nearby.

Grasping a deep red, leather-bound Bible with his left hand, he raised the right to the sky and prayed:

“Merciful Jesus! This day you receive the wretched soul of Brother Roscoe, a cruel and vicious man. He lived a selfish, terrible life and sinned wickedly against your children, O Lord. He was vain. He was prideful. He was faithless. He lied, stole and cheated, and leaves nobody to miss him.

“But your Prodigal son comes home a beaten man, humbly begging redemption and forgiveness. Christ, I pray you bring peace to this miserable sinner.” The minister opened his Bible to the eleventh chapter of Matthew and read, drops of rain blotting the page.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

He closed the Book and sighed.

“It is finished.”

With those words, Reverend Roscoe Lee Harper slid over the rail and offered himself to the hungry waters below.