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Singer Songwriter Summit

About ten years ago, the late Bill Ivey, then director of the Country Music Foundation, suggested that Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Guy Clark, and Joe Ely team up for a concert. The result was so successful and enjoyable for the participants that they've been getting together almost every year since. We went to hear them at McCarter Theater in Princeton recently.

I didn't know quite what to expect. I liked Lyle Lovett the first time I saw him (on the Tonight Show of all places, performing “Here I Am” aka “The Cheeseburger Song”), and I even saw him live once years ago with his Large Band. I was vaguely aware of John Hiatt, but had never heard of Guy Clark or Joe Ely. Even though I didn't know most of these guys, I recognized them as peers of Lyle Lovett, so I was sure they would be good.

This concert was more about the songs than the singers. There was no band, just four guys with acoustic guitars, and hence no place for a lame song to hide. There weren't any lame songs, that's for sure! The loose format of the evening had all four songwriters on stage the whole time; they basically took turns singing solo, although from time to time another would join in. It was evident that they enjoying listening to each other as much as performing.

Lyle was great, of course, but the big “discovery” for me was John Hiatt. Right from the first tune, the propulsive “Tennessee Plates” I was taken in by his musicianship and energy. Guy Clark was also a favorite with his disarmingly casual, folksy delivery. One of his many memorable tunes from the evening was the amusing ditty “Homegrown Tomatoes.” From the refrain: “Only two things money can't buy: and that's true love and homegrown tomatoes.” The four performed “This Land Is My Land” together as an encore. What an enjoyable evening.

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