Steve Earle & the Dukes
Guy (New West)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., April 12, 2019
Earle's 2009 tribute to Townes Van Zandt felt haunted, the hardcore troubadour evincing an emotionality from the late Texan's songs that understood the sad pains of addiction and art. His tribute to Guy Clark offers a different kind of homage. Across 16 tracks, the 64-year-old Virginia native and his ace band largely play it straight, and the album leaps with energy and celebration. His rough growl eschews polish, and the players don't do much interpretation on front-loaded familiars like "L.A. Freeway," "Dublin Blues," and "Rita Ballou." Clark's autobiographical writing makes compositions such as "The Randall Knife" difficult to inhabit, and Earle races through "Anyhow I Love You" too wistfully, but "That Old Time Feeling" shines, "The Last Gunfighter Ballad" shoots with a sharp report, and "Out in the Parking Lot" gets a convincing and driving rumble. The all-star grouping for "Old Friends" closes on a stirring note.