On his formidable first live recording, West Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark sets out to prove that things are better the second time around—not by rewriting his past but by changing its sound. He has unplugged many personal favorites and classics from the first two-thirds of his career, sanded away the unwanted gloss of their initial production and arrangements, and rebuilt them as the mostly acoustic models of simplicity he’d always thought they were.
When a live album goes right, you can sense that everybody involved—artists, technicians, even the audience—is on the same journey, that possibilities are ripe for the picking. Spontaneity spreads, and just when you think it can’t get any better (“Texas 1947,” “She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”), it often does. About mid-disc, Clark and his brilliant band light into “South Coast of Texas,” ignited here by accordionist Suzi Ragsdale and mandolinist Darrell Scott. Nobody wants to let go, and then Ragsdale invents a dazzlingly soulful coda that prompts Clark to compliment, “That was very cool, Suzi.”
Clark’s well-named album includes optimum versions of “That Old Time Feeling,” “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” the almost impossibly moving “Let Him Roll” and a fine new tune, “Out in the Parking Lot.” Though the artist may be too modest to admit it, Keepers is so good, it could easily beget a sequel. (Sugar Hill)