52 GIRLS"Magdalene" / Guy Clark
Right here, at the crossroads of country and folk, stands an underrated giant, Texas's own Guy Clark. Okay, so he won the Grammy this year for best folk album (My Favorite Picture of You) -- he's still not the household name he deserves to be.
Now, I don't normally think of Guy Clark as an outlaw country artist, if only because I prefer some of his more domestic songs such as "Stuff That Works" and "Worry B Gone". But as the author of, among other songs, the great "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train," he certainly helped to invent outlaw country with his Austin cronies Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Waylon Jennings in the 1970s -- and on his 2006 album Workbench Songs he's still writing (or co-writing, in this case with Ray Stephenson) about an outlaw.
Or a sorta outlaw...
Our hero is no calculating criminal, just a man who's somehow run afoul of the powers that be. "I ain't lookin' for trouble," he insists in the opening line, but trouble's found him: "I can't stay here tonight / I got to leave here on the double / If I want to see the morning light." The wary chromatics of those short simple lines are like urgent muttering in the shadow of a back porch.
Further proof that he's not on a wild crime spree: "Don't need no pistol for the tickets / I've got just enough to get us down the line / I don't know what happens next / Your guess is just as good as mine." He's confused, desperate, but he's rather pay for the bus tickets than hold up the ticket clerk.
Whatever crime he's committed, he's a man teetering on the brink, and the only thing he has to cling to is the one woman who makes sense to him. Magdalene is a common enough name in Tex-Mex circles, but I bet Guy was also thinking about the Bible's Mary Magdalene, a woman of cloudy reputation but pure heart.
"Move with me, Magdalene," he pleads. Even without the law (or whoever) on his tail, he's been ready to shake this town's dust off his shoes: "I'm tired of the same old scene / There's a Greyhound leaving at midnight / If you came with me, it'd be like a dream." Note that last-run bus, anything but glamor travel - but Magdalene isn't used to riding first-class anyway, is she? And if she's the kind of gal to risk everything on a mad leap of faith, all the better. Edging closer, his voice dropping into a huskier register of persuasion, he repeats his plea: "Come on, Magdalene / Move with me, Magdalene."
As verse two commences, she still hasn't turned him down, and his hopes are rising. He flips through an arsenal of arguments -- tempting visions of the future ("I've heard Mexico is easy"), brushing off the past ("I wouldn't stay here if I could"), reverse psychology ("Don't come along just to please me"), pragmatic strategy ("Let's go while the getting's good"). Whatever it takes to make her come, he'll try it out.
Last but not least, in the second chorus he adds these two lines: "Let's go down to San Miguel / Let's go be somebody else tonight." Ah, the ultimate temptation -- to junk this rotten life and try on a new one. Who wouldn't fall for that?
We never hear Magdalene's side of the conversation, it's true. But oh, I do hope she's already slipped indoors to pack her bags.