In The Service of Song Jim Clark gives new life and new voice to the poetry of Byron Herbert Reece. Clark’s music and performance are a wonderful exploration and expression of Reece’s art, inspired and inspiring, for a new generation of readers and listeners. The outstanding poet of the North Georgia mountains could not be more fortunate than to have his work celebrated, set and sung by this outstanding contemporary poet and musician, recalling the ancient, haunting ballads of the mountains. -- Robert Morgan (author of Gap Creek, Boone: A Biography)
Jim Clark: Press
Byron Herbert Reece's strong, adze-hewn lines are given adventurous but respectful settings by Mr. Jim Clark. Those who know the poems will salute this music; those who have yet to come to Reece's work will be attracted by tunes and harmonies wholly in character with the material . . . Music to listen to by winter firelight - an ideal way to read the poems. -- Fred Chappell (author of I Am One of You Forever; Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You; Midquest)
Listening to Jim Clark perform is to enter the white-hot core of Southern Appalachian music and literature. There is no one else in the region with such a wide range of artistic talent. -- Ron Rash (author of Serena, One Foot in Eden, Among the Believers)
One of the greatest triumphs for the true poet is to have his words set to memorable music. Reece’s poetry is music too, but to have Jim Clark’s melodies blending so perfectly with his words is to extend both artists’ art into a high new realm. Clark’s music captures the tone of life as revealed in Reece – soothing, sombre, serious – filled with a spare Celtic melancholy that is lovely rather than morbid. “The Stay-at-Home” is alone worth all the effort involved in creating this CD. -- James Everett Kibler (author of Poems from Scorched Earth, Our Fathers’ Fields, The Education of Chauncey Doolittle)
Interview feature on the process of creating The Service of Song.
A feature article about Jim Clark and The Service of Song from The Wilson Times, pp. 32-33.
Excellent article about Jim Clark and The Service of Song on p. 24 . . .
[My profound apologies for this pitiful attempt at a translation from the Dutch, assisted by Google Translation . . .]
A sunrise on a misty morning, wallpaper [?], or music to listen to by the hearth – these are the thoughts called up to many listeners by the album The Service of Song by American poet, musician and professor Jim Clark. For me the first applies: beautiful songs which penetrate every pore of your body. A friend of the troubadour suggested that he set some poems by Byron Herbert Reece, who died in 1958, to music. The poems explore the life of someone who found the hard and simple life of a farmer, and the life of a writer, difficult to reconcile. As Reece wrote in 1952 in the Atlanta Journal Magazine: “Once while I was writing my first novel, I happened to remark to a correspondent that I had been plowing potatoes. She wrote that I should concentrate on the book. She wrote that I should concentrate on the book. 'Anybody can plow potatoes,' she said. "Anybody can plow potatoes," she said. 'Anybody can plow potatoes,' I wrote in return, 'but nobody is willing to plow mine but me. "Anybody can plow potatoes," I wrote in return, "but nobody is willing to plow mine but me.”
The Service of Song is a fine collection of Reece's work, sung by Jim Clark. The music sounds to my ears like a combination of Appalachian and Celtic folk music. The songs are rich in instrumentation. Besides the guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and accordion, the hammered dulcimer and the pennywhistle are also featured prominently. Memorable and enjoyable songs you probably will never get tired of, together with the warm voice of Jim Clark, make The Service of Song a very pleasant listening experience. This is an album full of sweet and fresh folk songs tinged with delicate melancholy. The CD begins and ends with a poem by Byron Herbert Reece recited by Jim Clark, making The Service of Song a wonderful tribute to a poet who has now been rescued from oblivion.
Listen to this hour-long radio program featuring Jim Clark, North Carolina Poet Laureate Cathy Smith Bowers, and Asheville, NC, poet Jeff Davis.
Review of Jim Clark's CD Buried Land in Oyster Boy Review 19.
A link to a review of Buried Land, from the archives of Asheville Poetry Review:
Poetry and Music Pay Tribute to the Hollows of Tennessee
BURIED LAND: A collection of folk song and poetry
By Jim Clark
Eternal Delight Productions
27 songs and poems. $15.99.
REVIEWED BY BARBARA LINGERFELT
The multi-talented Jim Clark has outdone himself. His CD, "Buried Land," an amalgam of his poems and Appalachian folk music, is a strong and evocative paean to a region, the mountain hollows of Tennessee, and its people and history, which he holds most dear: "The people shake songs from the dusk / The songs seep into the soil. / The soil stains blue. / Last night the wind blew by me / and I heard: / All stains fade. We are traveling into night.”
Clark, a Byrdstown, Tenn., native and a graduate of the English MFA program at UNCG, has authored two books of poetry, a play and numerous short stories. He also is a singer and an accomplished musician who plays several instruments. "Buried Land" is notable precisely because of these talents: Clark employs them to create an uncommon portrait of a region some would relegate to forgotten facts in a history book.
There are several short poems on "Buried Land" in which Clark displays his gift for reflective lyricism to perfection; they are little elegies shaped by observations of nature and sharpened by the poet's sense of paradise and its people lost. Take, for instance, "Moonrise at Dale Hollow Lake": "Later, / as evening's dark hand / stills the water / and tourists glide / like boats to their homes, / I sit with friends / on an island point / and watch the moon / dance above cedars, / its reflection / fanning out / across black water. / A fish rises / as though to strike / the feathered light. / Something just this side / of saying / aches in my jaw."
The imagery in "First Snow" is likewise vivid and moving: "Come an early snow / and summer grass / is crocheted white. / Crows are / like negative meteors / in this sky where the old / season's light /dies. And 50 miles from here, / in the Red Boiling Springs Nursing Home, / my grandfather, whose bones / are made of that light, rises / from his bed on wings / sere as his skin and hair, / flying homeward as the wings / splinter and peel, / the moth-sized pieces drifting down / like feathers, like ash."
A calamitous event in Appalachian Tennessee in 1943 (and other rural areas since then) was the appropriation of people's land to form massive dams by the TVA, assisted by the Army Corps of Engineers. The memory of the event is alive in all of Clark's poetry. The ode becomes elegy in the eloquent "The Land under the Lake," dedicated to Clark's parents on their 50th wedding anniversary: "I think of Noah, his family spared, / Riding that bark of gopher wood above / The good lands of home, now submarine, paired / Beasts below waiting for news of the dove."
A review of "Buried Land" wouldn't be complete without mention of Clark's plaintive ballad, "Lady Magdalene." Dedicated to the memory of Jane Hayes Taylor, presumably the same Jane Taylor in his poem "Handiwork," the song celebrates a friend's life in a singular and beautiful way.
Jim Clark is a professor of English and writer-in-residence at Barton College in Wilson. May there be many more projects as felicitous as "Buried Land."
Barbara Lingerfelt is a poet who lives in High Point, NC. Her poems have appeared in Blue Mesa Review and Sunscript, a Florida Suncoast Writers publication.
A link to a review of Buried Land, from the archives of indieworkshop.com.