Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Guy Clark

  • Old No. 1 [RCA Victor, 1975] B+
  • The South Coast of Texas [Warner Bros., 1981] B
  • Greatest Hits [RCA Victor, 1983] B+
  • Boats to Build [Asylum, 1992] Neither
  • Keepers: A Live Recording [Sugar Hill, 1997] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Old No. 1 [RCA Victor, 1975]
I liked Clark's laconic vocal presence at first, although I eventually began to feel that, like the agreeably glopless Nashville production, it flattened this material more than it deserved. Which says good things for the material. A must for would-be Texans and other Western mythos fans. Meaningful sex fans will also dig. B+

The South Coast of Texas [Warner Bros., 1981]
Clark is hardly the last surviving singer-songwriter, but so much of the competition has gotten into rock auteurism or pop demos that those who miss the old ways pay him more mind than they used to. This is his best since 1975's aptly titled Old No. 1. The "Rita Ballou" lets us know he's singing easier, and turns like "her breath's as sweet as chewing gum" and "the road to good intentions/Is paved with the fools that I've been" remind us of his vernacular knack. But only on "New Cut Road," real bluegrass canonfodder, does the music add meaning as well as tangibility. Which is why the competition is into rock auteurism and pop demos. B

Greatest Hits [RCA Victor, 1983]
My, here's a useful item--replaces three whole tracks from the just-this-minute-deleted Old No. 1, two of them bittersweet love-and-sex songs, with three newer Texas-mythos numbers. Very conceptual, but not exactly an improvement, and I even like two of the new ones: "Broken Hearted People," which is also a bittersweet love-and-sex song, and "Texas Cookin'." I also miss the bittersweet love-and-sex song "Instant Coffee Blues" very much. Maybe Texas-mythos types understand food better than outlaws--the man has written well about home-grown tomatoes. B+

Boats to Build [Asylum, 1992] Neither

Keepers: A Live Recording [Sugar Hill, 1997]
making the most of a legacy and an ad hoc band ("Homegrown Tomatoes," "Let Him Roll") *