Cowboy Jack Clement, Guess Things Happen That Way

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Guess Things Happen That Way

Cowboy Jack Clement

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.