Album Review: Guy Clark - “The Best of the Dualtone Years”

One of the songwriting masters leaves one final piece of music for us as his label Dualtone crafts a thoughtful collection featuring highlights from his work for the label.

It’s a sad world we live in that country music poet Guy Clark no longer lives on it but we can take solace in the fact that we still have his music to inspire us for years to come. This collection, with a robust 19 tracks, collects the best of his late-period work with the Dualtone Music Group. cherry-picking from fine albums like Workbench Songs, Somedays The Song Writes You, Songs and Stories and his final album My Favorite Picture of You, The Best of the Dualtone Years is a nice primer of this period of work.

As a bonus for longtime fans, there are three demos which were previously unreleased before this project. These songs, “Just To Watch Maria Dance,” “The Last Hobo,” and “Time” showcase why stars from the likes Johnny Cash to Kenny Chesney recorded his songs. Chesney recorded “Hemingway’s Whiskey” and named his album after the song. Clark’s take on the song showcases that Clark was well aware of his vocal limitations but that doesn’t detract from the power of the lyric and emotion of the melody. “My Favorite Picture Of You” is a song that talks about the real world relationships out there, one where nothing’s perfect but everything at the end of the day comes out ok and right.

These are strong story songs and while Clark often wrote his early iconic songs on his own (many featured here from his Songs and Stories live project) and the majority of these latter songs were written with kindred spirits like Hal Ketchum, Verlon Thompson, Shawn Camp, Ray Stephenson, Lady Goodman, and Darrell Scott. While some might find that a note of a man not able to ‘do it anymore,’ this collection proves that he was anything but slowing down in his latter years and it serves as a nice introduction to his Dualtone work, a body of work which deserves to be listened to in its full glory along with this two disc collection of superlative songwriting.