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A master storyteller

Boats to Build
Boats to Build
By Guy Clark

Elektra Records: 1992

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This review first appeared in the January 15, 1993 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Better known as a songwriter, having written hits for Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell and The Highwaymen, Guy Clark is still, 20 years after his first album, "Old No. 1," the best interpreter of his songs. If there's a complaint, it's that this new album, "Boats to Build," is his first new album since 1988's "Old Friends" on Sugar Hill, and only his seventh overall.

"Boats to Build" is one of his best. As usual, the strength is in both his new songs and his deeply personal reading of them.

The songs include new classics such as "Picasso's Mandolin," "Too Much" and "I Don't Love You Much Do I," the last performed as a duet with Emmylou Harris.

Clark writes songs the way Johnny Cash and Tom Russell write country songs: They tell stories about America and Americans, whether it be about love, work or capturing the essence of those uniquely American oddball characters that inhabit both the nation's backroads and spirit.

His vocals are as rough-hewn and unique as his music; no one will confuse Guy Clark with Luciano Pavorotti. But when he's singing, it's like he's there personally, telling you a story.

Although generally unknown to the country-listening public, Clark is very highly regarded among his country peers. As on all his albums, he is surrounded by the best talent that could elbow its way into the project, including such Nashville heroes as Sam Bush on mandolin and guitarist Jerry Douglas, and Top 10 regulars Marty Stuart and Rodney Crowell on backing vocals.

Most folks reading this have admittedly never heard of, or heard, Guy Clark. He's not going to get much radio airplay, if any, and with the prices of CDs and cassettes being what they are, it's pretty hard to justify plunking down $12-$15 on a dare.

But if you like country music that tells a good story, with excellent musicianship and strong singing, it would be pretty darn hard to go wrong with Guy Clark.