Monday, April 23, 2007

Guy Clark Plays Homer, New York

Last weekend, my cousin - the Rubber Duck - and I travelled to Homer, New York, for some pickin' and grinnin' with song writing legend Guy Clark and guitarist Verlon Thompson. We were a tad surprised that this giant of country music was appearing in tiny Homer, but we were grateful for a road trip that took us over the Appalachian Upland, through the Finger Lakes - what I believe to be the most beautiful place in the northeast.

Several years ago, Homer's Baptist congregation vacated its red brick church for a concrete cathedral out by the Interstate. A community group bought the church and established the Centre for the Arts. The result is the most intimate and engaging concert hall that I have ever visited. The pulpit has been removed and a small stage is enveloped on three sides by barely enough seating on the floor and balcony for 400 visitors. The stained glass windows and hardwood pews set a particularly stark atmosphere for music laced with drinking and cheating themes.

Guy Clark has been penning songs in Nashville and Austin for over thirty years and he treated us to his very best. When the audio equipment failed, sounding "like rice crispies up here", he and Thompson took to the front of the stage and performed an unplugged version of "Tornado Time in Texas", while the sweating music director frantically sorted through cables. He cruised through two forty-five minute sessions, hitting all the songs the Duck and I had come for including "Magdalene", "L.A. Freeway", "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train", and of course, "Out in the Parking Lot". The highlight of the evening was the duet performed Clark and Thompson on "Boats to Build", the song they co-wrote and which Jimmy Buffet and Alan Jackson have covered.

The trip was capped off when we ran into Guy in the Hampton Inn lobby later that night and thanked him for the show before he limped off with a guitar in one hand and a sack of McDonald's hamburgers in the other.

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