Texas has produced a ridiculous bounty of smart, nonconformist country artists in the last three decades--among them Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joe Shaver, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams, and Kelly Willis. But Guy Clark, who's the most reflective bard of the highly literate bunch, insists he's just a folksinger, and his tendency to paint lovingly detailed portraits within gorgeously measured musical settings separates him from most of the shit-kicking, hard-drinking Texans above. On last year's Dublin Blues (Asylum) Clark continued to mark careful observations with a delicate blend of wit, pathos, and wisdom. In other hands the album's title track would be a futile attempt to shake off the grip of a failed romance. But as Clark warbles that he wishes he were in Austin "drinkin' mad dog margaritas and not carin' where you are," his gift for crafting mood and space balances his frustration and makes the listener wonder whether he's bitter or just feeling nostalgic. Possessed of a limited vocal range and only modest melodic invention, Clark wisely plays the role of storyteller, and his dry delivery only accents his sagelike thoughtfulness. Townes Van Zandt is also on the bill. Saturday, 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage; 525-7793. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Senor McGuire.

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