Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Guy Clark: The Best of the Dualtone Years [Dualtone, 2017]
Spurred by Steve Earle's stopgap tribute album to finally get a bead on this Texas-to-Nashville Americana legend/totem, a manifestly good guy who died at 74 in 2016, I was surprised to end up plighting my troth with this scant, late double-CD, 19 tracks including five deal-making live oldies and three unusually solid "unreleased writer demos." As indicated below, the RCA best-of falls off fast after a wham-bam start, and the most likely-looking of the Spotify playlists ignores the morning-after "Instant Coffee Blues," which along with the after-midnight "Out in the Parkin' Lot" stands as Clark's best song not counting "Homegrown Tomatoes." Although the young Clark sang better than Earle ever has, by his Dualtone sixties he was getting by on savvy and charm, which suffice. The live "L.A. Freeway" tacks on a story about his landlord that reminds me of how ready I was to leave my own North Hollywood garage apartment in 1971, four years before I ever heard of Guy Clark. Like a lot of this record, it makes me sorrier he's gone. A-