First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2006, Volume 13, #9
Written by John Metzger
On his latest effort Workbench Songs, Guy Clark once again teams with an array of other songwriters, fundamentally following the same template that guided him so well on his 2002 endeavor The Dark. Although the results aren’t nearly as successful, they also are too good to ignore.
The biggest problem with Workbench Songs is that unlike The Dark, there’s no unifying theme (musical or lyrical) among the selections. Even though they are adorned with intricately subtle instrumental shadings, several tracks — such Walkin’ Man, on which he essentially reformulates the melody from the traditional Shady Grove, as well as a straight-laced cover of the folk classic Diamond Joe — sound routine by Clark’s typically high standards. Elsewhere, he humorously pays tribute to stormy weather (Tornado Time in Texas), attempts to revitalize the cliché of a brokenhearted clown (Funny Bone), and hides his head in a cloud of marijuana smoke as a means of escaping from the problems plaguing the world (Worry B Gone).
More worthy of Clark’s legacy is Magdalene on which the yearning in his voice combined with the hushed backing vocals of Morgan Hayes conveys the complex emotions inherent in his tale of a bandit who is always on the run. Likewise, a reprise of Out in the Parkin’ Lot, which initially appeared on his live set Keepers, intelligently observes the lives that intersect outside a roadhouse bar, while Analog Girl lovingly portrays the sense of fulfillment that can be found in a simpler, less hurried life. In connecting with his characters, he reveals certain truths about life, love, and the human condition, and it’s here where the craftsmanship that is implied within the title to Workbench Songs is fully on display.
Workbench Songs is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box