Country Music People March 2019 - Page 51

and mandolin on three tracks and is the only non-Dukes member appearing on Guy, with one exception. Guy closes with Old Friends, his co-write with wife Susanna and Dobson. Here, the Dukes are joined by longtime Clark accompanist Verlon Thompson, Camp, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Jeff Walker, Rodney Crowell, Terry and Jo Harvey Allen, Mickey Raphael, Gary Nicholson and Clark’s favorite photographer, Jim McGuire, a formidable dobroist. So how is it? In a word, excellent! You’ll hear a large chunk of Clark classics, from L.A. Freeway and Desperadoes Waiting For A Train, Heartbroke and Texas 1947, Rita Ballou and an especially fine reading of The Randall Knife on through to more recent beauties Dublin Blues and Sis Draper, a Camp co-write. The songs sound like Guy could step right in and sing them as the arrangements and overall sound stay reasonably close to the original recordings. That’s a good thing – would you want to hear weird versions of these songs, in different tempos, keys and genre’s? These tunes were built on artfully constructed lyrics that the listener needs to hear clearly and Earle’s enunciation is spot-on, sounding much like Clark but maintaining his own vocal identity. These Dukes of Earle’s shine, providing tasty backing but staying in service to the song throughout, getting their chance to shine along with Camp on the ninety second outro to New Cut Road. It feels like there’s more fiddle here than on the originals and for that we have Eleanor Whitworth to thank. Whitworth who also plays mandolin and guitar, is joined by guitarist Chris Masterson, Ricky Ray Jackson’s pedal steel, Kelly Looney strumming bass and drummer Brad Pemberton. It’s no wonder Earle brought them into the studio instead of hiring the hottest current hotshots -- the Dukes are one cookin’ outfit! It’s also really keen to hear sixteen of Guy Clark’s Greatest Songs all in one place. Sure you can assemble the originals I suppose but here you have them all, updated versions, freshly painted.  Richard Dobson’s latest, unfortunately his last, I Hear Singing is a marvelous capstone to a remarkable career of significant songwriting and literary achievements. Recorded in his adopted home in Switzerland and his native Texas, it’s a breath of fresh air in today’s country scene. Richard’s got a warm, engaging voice that draws you in quickly and makes you feel like an old buddy is sitting next to you, telling great stories. Like his previous efforts, he presents his songs with a full band, including fiddles, mandolins and steel, sometimes a banjo, an accordion here and there, heck even longtime pal Brent Moyer’s trumpet rings in. Sounds busy but the producers keep restraint in place so there’s just enough backing to embellish Richard’s vocals and no more. The tracks are free of the “fill-every-space- with-sound” technique heard too often today. There’s air in these tracks, they can breathe! Credit for this sparkling production goes to David Bollinger and Peter Uehlinger, with the latter also playing numerous stringed instruments. During the course of the sixteen selections, I think many will wonder, “how did I miss this guy”? Well, unlike the others, Richard never had a major label release, never had a professional manager, publisher or publicist to tout his cause. He lived the last quarter-century of his life in a small Swiss village near the banks of the river Rhine. He made regular trips stateside to visit friends, record and play a few shows, eventually issuing twenty-one records and three books over a forty year span. And here’s the thing, he’s the only songwriter whose work has been covered by Townes, Guy and Steve – and by Johnny Cash, Steve Young, David Allan Coe and Dave Edmunds. And, to paraphrase that famous Earle quote about standing on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in his cowboy boots and touting Townes, I’ll stand on anyone’s coffee table (but in my moccasins) and proclaim that Richard’s twelve best songs belong in the conversation with the dozen finest Clark, Earle or Van Zandt compositions! A strong statement, yes, but have a listen to Long Time Long Time or he and George Ensle’s Everything I Need or So Have I, another co-write with the Clarks, also recorded by Guy. Richard wrote eight of these, co-wrote five others and covers overlooked treasures from Glen Campbell, Peter Rowan and Chris Smither. Dobson’s not as hard-edged as Clark or as filled with sad mystery and melancholy as Van Zandt. What Richard does have, though, is one of the friendliest voices you’ll ever hear. He has such a kindly, warm and crinkly tone that you want to welcome him into your home and heart. You can easily picture a smile on his face, his voice is that affable, reminiscent of Kenny Rogers’ geniality. Listen closely and you’ll find wisdom and history in Dobson’s work “... time is like water, slips thru our fingers, no one gets out alive.” Or how about, “... Old Guy Clark set the mark, not to mention Townes Van Zandt, giving it all for the sake of the song and that’s just how she went” from his autobiographical Long Time, Long Time. Take your pick -- a Townes time capsule, Earle’s Clark memory book and a Dobson farewell – or pick ’em all and you’ll have 43 examples of why these are enduring artists. John Lomax MARCH 2019 - cmp 51