With the exception of Willie Nelson and the late Townes Van Zandt, no Texas troubadour commands as much respect as singer-songwriter Guy Clark. His songs have been recorded by close to 40 artists, ranging from John Denver to Slim Pickens. "Poet" might not be an accurate description of him; maybe novelist is more to the point, as Clark fashions narratives worthy of Larry McMurtry or Edna Ferber. Clark, who was born in 1941 in Monahans, Texas, has the kind of background that provides plenty of good songwriting material. Because his father was in the military and gone much of the time, Clark lived with his grandmother, who ran a rooming house. One of her boarders was a retired oil-well driller Clark later immortalized in the much-covered "Desperados Waiting for a Train." A few years in California didn't go down well ("L.A. Freeway," a recounting of that time, was a minor hit for Jerry Jeff Walker in 1973). So the Clarks -- Guy's wife, Susanna, is a successful songwriter herself -- moved to Houston, where he began keeping company with the likes of Van Zandt and Texas blues legends Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb. Clark has released a mere nine albums of new material since his 1975 debut Old No. 1
, but all, including his most recent effort, 1999's Cold Dog Soup
, have been critically lauded.