Workbench Songs

One of the revelations of the recent Townes Van Zandt documentary Be Here to Love Me was seeing GUY CLARK in full bloom, undiminished by age. Everything about him—the irascible wit, drunken smile, and back-slapping demeanor—spelled trouble with a capital T. Yet since the filming, he’s found his own trouble, trading the T for the big C. Album photos of an aged Clark without his trademark mane come as a shock, yet lymphoma (reportedly in remission) hasn’t crushed this ornery sumbitch. WORKBENCH SONGS (Dualtone) is a broadly entertaining work, one of the Monahans-born songwriter’s most focused albums in some time. There’s a frayed edge to his voice, but Clark’s songs sing with ragged abandon. He runs down a few well-worn roads—the Anybar, USA, “Out in the Parking Lot” and “Analog Girl” (“Out in the garden/She’s got a Web site”)—but there are detours as well: the easy-swing charm of “Tornado Time in Texas”; the hilarious “Exposé,” co-written with Rodney Crowell and Hank DeVito; and best of all, the touching “Magdalene,” where a fugitive begs a girl to join him as he hightails it to Mexico. Yep, trouble.

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