Lyle Lovett’s Songwriters Tour

w/ John Hiatt, Joe Ely, Guy Clark

Fri. Jan. 26

7:30 p.m.


N. Charleston Performing Arts Center

5001 Coliseum Dr.







On Friday, Charleston area fans of American songwriting expertise are in for a treat as a quadruple-headlining “Songwriter’s Tour” rolls into the Lowcountry. The circle-in-the-round type event joins Lyle Lovett and fellow troubadour John Hiatt with Texan songsmiths Joe Ely and Guy Clark for a package show that’s sure to be long on both silver-tongued camaraderie and a bevy of winning material.

The crux of the 33-city outing — referred to amongst the performers as “The Four Horsemen Songwriter’s Tour” — comes from a longtime creative bond between the four artists. Ely and Clark have been considered influential songwriting legends within and outside of the Lubbock/Austin corridor of Texas. Lovett and Hiatt are two singer/songwriters whose melodic smarts and willingness to explore new directions have secured them special recognition among both fans and contemporaries. With each artist maintaining a separate schedule of their own, the “Horsemen Tour” allows them an opportunity to cut loose in good company and perhaps even dole out a handful of seldom-heard deep cuts in the process.

“We play newer stuff, early stuff, and tell some stories about where all these songs came from,” says Ely about the show’s informal setup. “The [songwriter’s circle] idea actually came together many years ago, somewhere around 1990. Someone had gotten in touch with Dale Ivey, who was in charge of the United Country Music Association, and wanted to know if he could put four singer/songwriter/storytellers together who he would choose. Well, he picked the four of us and the first string of dates led to another, and then to another. The four of us kind of realized how much fun it was and we’ve made it a point to get together at least once a year and do a show or a string of shows somewhere.”

Of the four performers, Lovett has maintained the most low-key profile during the past year. It took over seven months for him to recover from being stampeded by a horse on his uncle’s farm in late 2002. His last release, the brief but upbeat My Baby Don’t Tolerate, came out the next year. Since then, Lovett has mostly been performing on the road with his synonymous Large Band/Orchestra in tow. The Songwriter’s Tour, which is scheduled to run through March, will be a great chance to catch Lovett in a solo atmosphere with a more-than-capable posse at his back.

Clark just released a collection of mostly collaborative material entitled Workbench Songs that presents one of the most inspired casts of characters he’s assembled in quite some time. Comprised of songs Clark co-wrote with a prize crew of fellow songwriters like Leroy Parnell, BR-549’s Chuck Mead, and guitarist sideman Verlon Thompson, it’s a warm and reflective outing from the ornery song craftsman. The album also marks the studio debut of Clark’s “Out In the Parking Lot,” a longtime live favorite cowritten with Darrell Scott that puts into perspective the hangover-inducing idiosyncrasies that occur every Saturday night outside any watering hole with a late last call.

Hiatt, like Lovett, has been keeping somewhat of a low profile lately. In 2005, the gruff-voiced Nashville troubadour put out Master of Disaster, a winning disc that saw juke-jointers North Mississippi Allstars with veteran Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood serving as Hiatt’s backing band. A collection of confessional, realistically tragic story songs, Master gained more acclaim than any Hiatt release since 1987’s bluesy Bring the Family — and for good reason. Hiatt has been known to regularly switch gears in his musical proclivity — with Stax-style R&B, Beale Street blues, and folk-infused country all on the drawing board. With his last outing, all of these and more were finally combined to paint a full and tender portrait of the artist. Hiatt’s a champ when going it alone and the soft-spoken Southern gent’s musical unpredictability should provide a steady companion to his Texan comrades’ dusty, wide-open musings.

Ely himself has been the busiest of the four musketeers as of late — which shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise to those already attuned to the rapid-fire work schedule of the Austin-based multitasker. He just finished recording a new album, Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch, that’s scheduled to hit shelves on Feb. 7. The same week said CD is scheduled to be released, Ely will also be overseeing the first press of Bonfire of Roadmaps, a book of poetry and journal entries that he’s been piecing together for the last couple of years. Come spring 2007, the first volume of a continuing series of previously unreleased Ely recordings, Silver City (Pearls From the Vault Vol. 1), will, too, be hatched. Fear not, though, troubadour faithful, the enduring Ely swears it’ll be he — not a cleverly disguised stand-in — occupying a corner stool when he and the three accompanying Horsemen saddle down to rest their heels at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center.

“The idea for all that I’ve been involved with recently comes from my first book, Bonfire of Roadmaps, that’s being put out by the University of Texas,” comments Ely. “When I first started writing what would become this book, it was, really, as just ideas and sketches for songs. I took things from those ideas and sketches and brought some of ’em into the present day. If they held up I kept ’em; if they didn’t, I rerecorded them. So, really, these songs span from the early ’80s to the present day.”

Attendees at the show will most likely hear a few of these refurbished Ely gems and a whole lot more. With no formal setlist clogging up the works, it’s sure to be a memorable opportunity to enjoy four of America’s most traveled songsmiths together in the round.

“This is the kind of thing that changes every night,” says Ely. “Still, every show is just as interesting as the one before it. John Hiatt played a song last night that, out of all these we do, I’d never even heard before. We give a little background to the songs, too, and tell where they came from. Sometimes, we’ll just get on a roll that goes around. The other night, it was song titles that are women’s first names, since we all have at least one of those. I guess that’s making light of the whole situation but it allows you to play some pretty fun and funny songs, too. Like I said, you never know what’s gonna happen because it’s a surprise every night!”

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