Unless you were around here almost 30 years ago and traveling in the music scene, Mickey Clark probably means nothing to you. But the inside liner sleeve on Clark's new album, Winding Highways, is the Anderson Fair music calendar for March 1980. Nanci Griffith and John Grimaudo both had two-day stands that month, Lucinda Williams played the 13th and 29th. Lyle Lovett played the 20th, then opened for Eric Taylor the 21st and 22nd. Clark headlined the 23rd. So suffice to say that he traveled in fast company in those days. You've got to love Clark anyway. His backstory - an integral part of the NYC folk scene in the early '60s with the New Village Singers, a respected Nashville songwriter in the '70s, a long association with Louisville Cardinals basketball, and an executive at the now defunct WorldCom - is interesting enough to write a novel about. Like he sings, "This ain't my first rodeo," but Highways is Clark's first album in 25 years - because he lost his singing voice for 20 years.
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With guest appearances by old friends John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kinky Friedman, Tim Krekel, Sam Bush, Robin and Linda Williams, and his old singing mate Turley Richards, Highways is a quiet, old-school singer-songwriter album that sounds like it had a million-dollar budget. It doesn't hurt that the core studio band consists of legends like Al Perkins and the best Americana studio musicians in Nashville: Tim Crouch, Dave Pomeroy, Sam Bush, Pat McInerny, Richard Bailey, Suzi Ragsdale, and Thomm Jutz. It also doesn't hurt either that Jim Rooney (John Prine, Iris DeMent, Nanci Griffith) produced it. But at the end of the day, it's not cameo appearances by famous names, it's Clark himself who makes this record such a likable winner. He puts all his experience and musical enthusiasm into Winding Highways. The album would be worth the price of admission just for the hilarious "Don't Piss On My Boots And Tell Me It's Rainin'" alone, but there is much, much more. Clark's cover of Prine's "Louise" is prime stuff, as are his own songs like "Wyoming's Child" and "Red Velvet Cake." Reminiscing about his Anderson Fair gig almost 30 years ago, Clark is his usual modest self. "I was just coming to Austin for a gig and Mickey White, who was Townes van Zandt's guitar player and played a lot of my dates with me, said we might as well play Houston while I was in the area," Clark recalls. "He set up the Anderson Fair show and we had a great gig that night. I didn't realize at the time what an historic venue I was playing in. Seems pretty magic now that I look back on it." Listen to songs from Winding Highways at www.myspace.com/mickeyclarkmusic.