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'This One's for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark'

Released on Icehouse Music, November 2011

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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This One's for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark

This One's for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark

© Icehouse Music
Tribute albums are always good. You can't really lose when you gather together the best artists in any genre to perform songs written by one of that genre's greatest songwriters. In this case, we're talking Guy Clark getting the star treatment from Rodney Crowell, Shawn Colvin, Rosanne Cash, Patty Griffin, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine (who recorded a track with Emmylou Harris), Willie Nelson, and so on. Even surveying the track listing of this tribute to one of modern folk music's greatest contributors, will tell you a story about the breadth of Clark's remarkable influence. From Texas-bred outlaw country stars to obscure singer-songwriters who cut their teeth in the East Village.

Highlights and Lowlights

While This One's for Him certainly represents a community of musicians, a wealth of styles and talents, and careers which have been touched in some way by Clark's undeniable talent, the collection could have been extraordinary if it had been capped at a single disc. For all the recordings on this disc which portray the kind of inspired interpretation of Clark's songs for which the tunes seem to call, there are a couple of tunes which sound more like karaoke. It's easy to imagine singer-songwriters far and wide wide clambering to pay tribute to Guy Clark, but being a fan doesn't always mean one is capable of inhabiting the space held by their songwriting hero.

The Trishas', for example - an exceptionally talented troupe clearly influenced by Clark's songwriting - somehow missed the mark on "She Ain't Going Nowhere". It's too pretty, too polished. Their performance brings to light a certain jadedness inherent in Clark's music - a quality it's difficult to embody when your voice is so beautifully fashioned. It doesn't mean they're incapable of an enviable level of musicality - it's simply a different set of skills one needs to fill Clark's shoes. Ron Sexsmith's "Broken Hearted People" and Shawn Camp's "Homeless" both miss a certain swing. Sandwiched as they are between Shawn Colvin's and Rosanne Cash's recordings, those two tunes feel a little overshadowed and skippable. Again, here's an unquestionably gifted artist whose skills lie in a different box from those of Guy Clark.

On the other hand, Willie Nelson's turn on "Desperados Waitin' for a Train" (purchase/download) is perfectly delivered as is Lyle Lovett's "Anyhow I Love You" (purchase/download). Both these artists sing their selections like, if they weren't singing, they'd be crying. The song is a release, a declaration. The same comes across with Rosanne Cash on "Better Days" and Shawn Colvin's "All He Wants Is You".

The Bottom Line

This One's for Him will no doubt delight fans of Guy Clark. It'll please folks who are devoted followers of American folk, roots, and Americana music; those who carry an allegiance for great, simple songwriting and storytelling. It demonstrates the reach of Clark's remarkable talent and paints a glorious picture of all the styles and careers his music has touched, shaped, and influenced through the years.

But, as its own statement of musical prowess, the collection falls short of greatness. Each individual track on its own is wonderfully performed, but the double-album is lacking in complete cohesion. It feels instead more like placing a bunch of artists on "random play." Granted, they're the best artists in the business - from Hayes Carll to Patty Griffin to Vince Gill and Kris Kristofferson. In the end, though, fans would be as well served by picking and choosing tracks by their favorite artists and downloading them one at a time, rather than springing for the entire album all at once.

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