Few souls alive today cast as large a shadow over country music as Cowboy Jack Clement. He was an engineer at Sun Studios during its '50s heyday; launched the career of Charley Pride in the '60s; spent the '70s producing legendary albums for the likes of Waylon Jennings and Townes Van Zandt; even worked with U2 in the '80s. That agenda meant he rarely got around to recording himself; Guess Things Happen That Way is his first album since 1978.
Clement kicks things off, somewhat surprisingly, with a Stones cover: His boogie-woogie take on "No Expectations" serves as a punchy pacesetter for the album's ramshackle heart. The late Johnny Cash chimes in on the Man in Black's own "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" and the title track, a hit for Cash many moons ago; other highlights include the charming sing-along "S-E-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y" and the achingly romantic "Dreaming My Dreams with You" (the title track of a classic Waylon album Clement produced). Other notables on board include Matraca Berg, the Jordanaires, Tim O'Brien and Ronnie McCoury — but the focus is squarely on Clement's voice, which radiates with a deep warmth and friendly tenderness reminiscent of Burl Ives or Hoyt Axton.