Imagine you’re in Austin about 30 years ago and you hear music coming from a little bar. You step inside this hole in the wall and see one of the most deservedly acclaimed singer/songwriters on the Texas music scene performing for a tiny audience.
Well, you can approximate that experience by picking up one of these first-rate discs, both of which were recorded in 1984 at Dixie’s Bar and Bus Stop in Austin and are available on your choice of DVD or CD. Opt for the former, which conveys what the two were like in concert at their peaks. The restored audio is excellent and the venue—which appears to be as modestly sized as its name suggests—adds charm. The artists perform in front of what looks like only a few dozen people, including couples who dance in front of the makeshift stage and children who wander up front to get a better look at the singers.
In some ways, the concerts are quite different from each other. Walker delivers 18 songs with a full electric band and another eight with acoustic accompanists, and he rarely stops smiling. Clark performs alone, talks little, and smiles less. But both are captivating artists with strong, distinctive voices and consistently fine material. Clark’s 28-track program includes a melancholy reading of his poignant “L.A. Freeway”—his masterpiece in my book—as well as “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” probably his best-known number, and “Homegrown Tomatoes,” which shows off his wry sense of humor. Walker shines on his classic “Mr. Bojangles” and such other originals as “Hill Country Rain” and “Stoney” and offers rocking covers of Clark’s aforementioned “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperados.” Both shows are treats from opening track to final encore.