Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Worry B Gone" / Guy Clark

Every day my Google news alert teases me with another appearance, somewhere around these United States, of what they call the Four Horsemen Tour -- John Hiatt, Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, and Joe Ely, four of the finest singer-songwriters you'll ever hear. If they're coming to your neck of the woods SEE THEM at all costs. I took in one of their shows a year ago, mainly on account of John Hiatt (one of my personal music gods), but to my great surprise I fell wildly in love with the other three as well. I wrote about Lyle Lovett a few weeks ago; now it's time to rave about Guy Clark, as I spin his new CD Workbench Songs.

On my iTunes, Guy Clark tracks get classified as everything from folk to country to blues to rock -- it's like he's pitched his tent at the Four Corners of music. Maybe that's why he's never been successfully marketed to a wide public. Well, the fact that more folks don't know about Guy Clark is a crying shame. Just listening to him sing these down-to-earth numbers in that mellow, slightly growly voice makes me feel all warm inside. I totally dig his love songs, the way they ooze genuine affection for flesh-and-blood women, not plastic hotties; I sink happily into his nostalgic reminiscences of his small-town Texas boyhood. Guy Clark never seems to take himself too seriously, but don't be fooled -- he'll sneak in some edgy home truths just when you least expect it.

That's where we stand with this little tune. "Give me just one more puff of that Worry B Gone," he croons over a perky acoustic line, with his buddies chiming in, "Worry be gone," like some 1930s-period piece out of O Brother Where Art Thou. His scratchy vocal is completely disarming, and obviously NOT your typical slacker stoner. He can't really mean he's smoking dope, can he? "I got a world of trouble I need to forget," he says, with just the slightest wink; "I'm on my way, but I ain't there yet." Now what could drive a good ol' boy like this to smoke pot?

Well, hang on a minute, and he'll get around to telling you. (Don't be in such a dang hurry.) "Everywhere I look, trouble is all I see," he gripes lazily, matching his pace to that shuffling old-time rhythm (a little honky-tonk piano slips in here now too); "Can't listen to the radio and I hate TV." Hmmm...well, I'm with you there, Guy. Go on. "Trouble with the air, trouble with the water / People ain't treating one another like they oughtta," he adds, and he does have a point -- it's enough to drive anybody to seek a little herbal escape.

"I don't want to hear no preacher preaching," he continues, your classic front-porch philosopher; "No more politician bitchin' / All them songs about love gone wrong / Got me wondering where's my baby's gone / I can't suffer fools wastin' my time / Don't give me no advice that rhymes..." and even though he's giving us advice in rhyme right there, I'm suckered in. "Don't gimme no shit, just gimme a hit / I been smokin' all day and I can't get lit," he complains, with a sly chuckle in his voice. By now, it's clear that this song is only incidentally about the virtues of marijuana, and whether you puff Worry B Gone or not, you know where he's coming from.

If the modern world can drive a danged old coyote like this to pot, then something must be wrong. But, hey, Guy Clark's not preaching at you; he'd never do that. No, sirree. You just happened to stumble on some notions he left lying around...


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