In line with Lonesome Onry and Mean's recent piece on septuagenarians Ian Hunter and Jesse Winchester, we've been listening to new records from a pair of wizened old Texas treasures: 68-year-old Guy Clark and 73-year-old Kris Kristofferson. Both are stellar efforts, although even a producer like Don Was can't make Kristofferson's voice sound like much more than a cement mixer turning wet gravel at low speed. But let's face it, we don't come to Clark or Kristofferson because they have Pavarotti's vocal chords or Rascal Flatts' haircuts. We come for the words, the songs, the ideas. Both of these albums are a poet's delight. Maybe the most interesting aspect of Clark's Someday The Song Writes You is the co-writing. One can't help wondering which parts Clark wrote and what the other established or budding talents brought to the writing table. In the end, it doesn't matter because many of these songs are as good as anything Clark has ever put his stamp on.
Besides, whether it's the old war horse mentoring the youngsters or doing most of the work and giving some promising youngsters a leg up, at the end of the day it's the songs that have to cut the mustard, and there isn't a single song here that Townes van Zandt, Clark's old comrade in arms, could fault. It's just interesting to see Clark working with promising talents like Jedd Hughes, Patrick Davis, and Ashley Monroe. In fact, "Wrong Side of the Tracks," written with Davis, and "Hollywood," written with Hughes, are cut from that staggering-down-a-dark-alley persona that Clark has always excelled at. Other songs, like the haunting "The Guitar," the philosophical and odd "The Coat," and Rodney Crowell co-write "Eamon" - as good a going-to-sea story as there's ever been - make this a damn fine, memorable album that ought to signal to a bunch of these Texas Music pussies that they should sell their guitars and go back to accounting or stockbrokering or whatever they used to do before daddy paid for their first album.
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As for Kristofferson, it's rather amazing to see him performing from a songwriter perspective at such a high level when, by any account, he should be bouncing grandchildren on his knees and worrying about his Roth IRAs or his Social Security checks. But it only takes one trip through Closer To The Bone to understand that Kristofferson still has the literary fire in his belly that made us lose it the first time we heard "Silver Tongued Devil." The quirky (and maybe slightly mawkish) "Sister Sinead" finds Kristofferson banging the podium like a fire-and-brimstone preacher talking to the lost and signals to all comers that his 70-plus years haven't dulled his pen or his emotional scalpel. Sentimental and philosophical, Closer To The Bone is a must for any of Kristofferson's fans.