Songsmith Guy Clark’s first album in four years is a powerful one that is at times tender, tough and introspective –and oftentimes all three at once.
On My Favorite Picture Of You, due to release July 23, the 71-year-old Texan fills windswept acoustic landscapes full of brightly poetic images as he reflects on life with a hard-earned wisdom.
My Favorite Picture Of You handles complicated emotions with an ever-present and steady truth. As on the project’s opening tune, the sawdust number “Cornmeal Waltz,” Guy consistently reveals that what others might breeze through with barely a thought is many times worth a second look. And you don’t need to look much further than the album’s cover for this message to resonate. Staring cross-armed into the lens of an old Polaroid camera is a portrait of Guy’s late wife, Susanna, shortly after she found her husband drunk with fellow Lone Star troubadour Townes Van Zandt. Like he’ll go onto explain in the album’s thoughtful and loving title track, It’s just a moment in time you can’t have back, and later, A curse on your lips but all I can see / Is beautiful, referring to the love of his life that passed away last year.
Guy’s raspy voice sounds older on My Favorite Picture of You, and at times pensive as he pushes for certain notes like on “The Waltzing Fool,” a Lyle Lovett cover and the only song Guy didn’t have a hand in writing on the project. But make no mistake; time hasn’t taken away his ability to make a forceful impact. The spoken word verses of “Heroes” delicately peel away the hardened layers of an Iraq War vet who’s returned home in need of help himself. Morgane Stapleton, wife of country / bluegrass artist Chris Stapleton, offers tender harmonies here as she does on several of the album’s cuts. Guy and Chris worked together to pen the highlight track “Hell Bent On A Heartache,” which is another featuring Morgane’s arresting vocals. “El Coyote” contemplates tough issues surrounding illegal immigration along the Texas border and “Good Advice” sends a curt message that sometimes someone’s two cents aren’t all that appreciated. Don’t give me no advice that rhymes, Guy sings with a hint of fire (and possibly some self-effacing irony?) directed at a supposed piece of contrived wisdom.
However, ‘contrived’ is just about the last way to describe any of the wisdom Guy shares on the record. Instead, the album closes with a hard dose of agonizing realism as he takes on themes of addition and self-destruction. “The High Price of Inspiration” is a jagged and ominous tale threaded by musician Bryn Davies’ haunting cello. On “I’ll Show Me,” a smoke filled blues tune Guy wrote with Rodney Crowell, the words, [We] Self-destruct for our own enjoyment, cut sharply in a song about alcoholism and going broke in a pool hall.
Guy is a master storyteller and My Favorite Picture Of You is another grand chapter in his iconic career. Whether it’s the sad “Rain In Durango” or a moody murder ballad like “Death of Sis Draper,” Guy delivers a riveting and heartfelt set made all the more powerful by his eye for the hidden truths that effect so many.
Key Tracks – “Hell Bent On A Heartache,” “Heroes,” “Death of Sis Draper,” “I’ll Show Me”