Verlon Thompson is a guitar player. One hell of a guitar player. He and his pal, Guy Clark, travel ’round the world playing their brand of warm country music to fans hither, thither and, well, maybe not yon. They’ve been all through Texas, around the USA, they played the 2nd Annual Canadian Songwriters’ Festival in Guelph, but they haven’t been everywhere … yet. Get it?
This little album, only 37 minutes long, is an example of real home-made music. All instruments and vocals by Verlon Thompson. I can hear bass, mandolin and guitars. It’s marvelous in its simplicity. Recorded “out at the barn” in a studio he built for his previous album, the sound is as cozy as an Pendleton blanket in front of a log fire. The title song is a list of the places they HAVE played, with a chorus that promises if you “book us a room, we’ll be in your town soon … we ain’t been everywhere but we’re tryin’ to get there.” If you haven’t seen these guys, do so at your earliest possible convenience.
There’s some nifty wordplay on the next tune, “I Was a Square.” It’s cute, good for a laugh, and yet has a deeper side, too. Thompson describes it in the brief liner notes as ” … a play on words turned out to be a sincere look back at missed opportunity.” He reprises a couple of songs from Clark’s most recent albums, putting his own spin on them, and yet, coming from essentially the same space, they display a similar approach. Townes Van Zandt’s “Rex’s Blues” is dedicated to Thompson’s brother Rex. It features slide guitar and mandolin. “Bunkhouse Blues” was on Clark’s Cold Dog Soup, but I’d say Thompson’s yodel outdoes Clark’s.
“He Left The Road” starts with the riff from CCR’s “Proud Mary” and proceeds to tell the story of a trucker who was killed on the road, listening to the radio. It’s touching and sad. “Give Me A Ride to Heaven, Boy” is another highway song, wherein the driver picks up a hitchhiker who calls himself Jesus Christ. You figure it out. Terry Allen wrote this one, and except for the Van Zandt song, all the others are written or co-written by Thompson. He’s a creative tunesmith, and is featured during Clark’s shows.
“A Whisper and a Scream” is a live track from the Suwannee Springfest in Florida. You can hear the rest of the festival in the background. It’s a bit echoey, but sung a capella it showcases Thompson’s strong true tenor. “I Will Come Back Again” is a haunting reincarnation ballad, nicely fingerpicked.
This is mellow, acoustic stuff, well crafted songs, beautifully and subtly played and sung. It’s almost as though Thompson was singing for you in your living room. And he is one fine guitar player!
(VNS Records, 2004)