Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

Songwriter Circle: Steve Earle, David Olney, Jesse Winchester, Guy Clark
Sunday, Oct. 3, 3:00 p.m.
Rooster Stage
Reviewed by Aimee Spanier

Guy Clark stayed on the Rooster Stage after his brief set joined by Steve Earle, David Olney, Jesse Winchester, and Verlon Thompson for the stunning Songwriters Circle. The five took turns performing, giving the audience a peek into what I imagine goes on when a group of talented musicians gets together off stage.

Winchester started, sharing a high, delicate love song with the crowd, silent and hanging on to every word, every note.

Olney, who is often overlooked but still very much appreciated by his peers, undoubtedly widened his audience significantly with "Women Across the River." Relative youngster Steve Earle sang "Ellis Unit One" from the Dead Man Walking soundtrack, his dark voice and dark lyrics making this young man fit in among the elder statesman on stage with him.

Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson harmonized on a paean to Townes Van Zandt, and commiserated on the nature of the beast they've chosen as their life's work. "There ain't no money in poetry," said Thompson, invoking Kerouac and others. "That's what sets a poet apart." Obscurity as well, something that Thompson, more than anyone on stage, would know. He shared his incredible (and I mean that literally) "Whisper and a Scream," most familiar to fans as sung by Pam Tillis, a capella. "There's peace, and then there's chaos. Without music, it's RAW," said Thompson. In his music, you know that to be true.

The round robin continued, each songwriter getting his time in the center, with the others backing up when they were moved to. "After years of dedication," Olney said, "you might finally get a glimpse of what's right." This set, as much as any other this weekend, gave us more than a glimpse of what's right in music these days.

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