This is a really enjoyable CD someone gave me, recorded in Denver in July 1990 and is one of about three of these I now have – another one was from the Bottom Line in NYC in 1989, but the overall concept remains the same – 4 or occasionally 5 singers sitting round on stage taking it in turns to sing songs that they have written and/or made famous. All of these ’89/’90 gigs seem to have been organised by my former favourite smokes folks at Marlboro.
Not sure how long the series went on for, nor how many people were actually involved, but this one features 3 guys who seem to be staples of the series; John Hiatt, Guy Clark and Joe Ely plus, in this instance, Mary Chapin Carpenter. Other versions have featured Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.
Certainly, there was something that many of the performers liked about the format because several of them re-assemble from time to time and go out on the road – sadly only in North America to date – as a ‘Songwriters’ Tour’
( L-R) – Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Joe Ely & Guy Clark pictured ahead of their 2007 ‘Songwriters’ Tour’
The good thing about the format is that you never get the chance to get tired of any one performer – it’s just a personal thing, but I think I would find it hard to sit through an hour-plus of either Joe Ely or Guy Clark (unaccompanied), but here it’s not a problem as they only crop up every fourth song, which is just fine.
I’m not sure if these recordings are radio broadcasts, but I would doubt it as they have no ad breaks and are the full gig, usually running to 2 hours plus. They are also clearly soundboard recordings with no ambient audience noise.
What I was thinking is how great it would be if a similar thing could be put together over here – I’d nominate Richard Thompson, Johnny Dickinson, Dan Arborise and Tom Bellamy for the inaugural UK tour.
A Worldwide ‘Fantasy’ line-up would feature each of these performers at their peak – Bob Dylan (’66/’67 version), Joni Mitchell (about 1976), David Crosby (about 1973) and Leonard Cohen (recent)
A ‘# 1 in Heaven’ version would be Lowell George, John Martyn, Bob Marley, Nick Drake and Townes van Zandt…no apologies for including a fifth member…
Anyone care to add to the list?