Guy Clark Tribute w/ Verlon Thompson & Shawn Camp
— No Depression Magazine
The Journal of Roots Music
Magical Memories Shared In A Tribute To Guy Clark
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
DECEMBER 13, 2017
“Old friends, they shine like diamonds
Old friends, you can always call
Old friends Lord, you can’t buy ’em
You know it’s old friends after all”
As evidenced in that superior song, the aptly titled “Old Friends,” the late Guy Clark knew a little something about preserving the bonds of friendship and fellowship. Indeed, he would probably have been proud to witness three of his former friends, who once accompanied him on stage and in the studio, reunite for a touching tribute concert that offered music, memories, humor, happenstance, tall tales, and even tears.
Set in the intimate environs of the Knoxville Tennessee Visitors Center, also home to Americana and roots radio station WDVX, Clark’s former colleagues – singer/guitarists Verlon Thompson and Shawn Camp and bassist Bryn Davies – shared their recollections and reflections of the man whose death last year left a lingering legacy filled with memorable music aided and abetted by a powerful personality. Thompson spoke in emotional terms about his longtime musical companion, a man he toured with for the better part of 20 years. That, however, is nothing new. Thompson has been doing much the same thing in every one of his concerts since Clark’s passing, and on this particular night, as is the case every night, it’s obvious that he still deeply mourns and misses him. The emotion is palpable and it was clearly felt by everyone in the room.
Of course, it’s Clark’s memorable music that draws such particular poignancy. Clark’s songs reflected his real-life experiences, with all its joys, ironies, and disappointments. As a result, songs such as “Texas 1947,” “Desperados Waiting For A Train,” “Boats To Build, “Randall Knife,” “The Guitar,” and “LA Freeway” were always etched with emotion, so much so that oftentimes there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience. The passion and pathos remained intact, exactly as originally intended. That said, the trio did the material justice, recreating the songs with the same sentiment and sincerity evident in the original renditions.
Still, despite the sadness that’s still felt at the loss of this Americana icon, the festivities were far from somber. Thompson shared several memorable moments from the times the two spent together. A story about the time they went to the Bahamas for a gig and were forced to take a fishing boat back to Florida due to a storm had the crowd convulsing with laughter. Clark, it seems, slept through the entire trip, strapped to a chair while Thompson was sick to his stomach as the boat was tossed around by the thrashing waves. Thompson also recalled the time he fell off a ladder, breaking both his wrists, and found himself in a medicinal haze. Barely able to open his eyes, he saw Clark standing in his living room, engulfed by a cloud of cigarette smoke while looking at him curiously. “Did you forget to wear your cape?” Clark asked.
It was a perfect segue way as the three musicians launched into, naturally enough, “The Cape,” a song about the risk and wonder of taking that mighty leap of faith.
In the end, Thompson, Camp and Davies performed a show that simply couldn’t be beat. Their ability to connect with the songs and convey that connection to the crowd was both touching and triumphant. Yet, the sentiments ran both ways, with feelings shared by the artists and the audience. There’s simply no greater bond than that.