Cold Dog Soup - Guy Clark
2016 was the year of many sad things: Brexit and Trump's election to name but too, but to me nothing was sadder than the death of the wonderful Guy Clark.
When I was part of Polar Promotions (hot music in a cold climate!), we put on Guy at the Union Chapel, on my recommendation. Half way through a terrific concert, my business partner Martin rushed over to me and whispered excitedly in my ear: "he's not just a singer, he's a poet!". Here Guy proves the point by identifying with W B Yeats, Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac alongside his contemporary Tom Waits, but really this is an elegy by Guy for his good friend Townes Van Zandt who died on January 1st 1997, two years before this was recorded and who was a great romantic poet / singer songwriter himself.
In doing so, Guy is celebrating their art, and also saying that music and poetry are about the only honest things out there.
William Butler Yeats in jeans
Got up to play guitar and sing
In some joint in Mission Beach last night
At the door sat Tom Waits
In a pork pie hat and silver skates
Jugglin' three collection plates Jesus Christ
But with the Guy Clarke, there's not much room for sentimentality, only truth, folklore and stories, and here he gives us an affectionate thumbnail portrait of how you would be likely to find Townes.
Townes Van Zandt standin' at the bar
Skinnin' a Hollywood movie star,
Can't remember where he parked his car
Or to whom he lost the keys;
Full of angst and hillbilly haiku
What's a poor Ft. Worth boy to do?
Go on rhyme somethin' for em' man
Show him how you really feel
And then he gets to the nub of it, that he, Townes and the rest of this crew of modern day troubadors aren't constrained by their contracts to record companies or publishers because, as he sings:
There ain't no money in poetry
That's what sets the poet free
which is why you can always trust a good poet and why none of them ever went into politics.