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Musicians meet for night of acoustic sounds

| Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006

It's like the children's book, "One of These Things is Not Like the Other." What's a Hoosier doing on stage with three Texans?

"It remains a mystery to me," says John Hiatt, who joins Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely and Guy Clark for an evening of acoustic music Tuesday at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. "I don't quite fit in. Sometimes I feel like the odd man out."

That's not true, of course. Hiatt is a superb songwriter, certainly worthy of trading lines with Lovett, Ely and Clark. And as a performer he can more than hold his own with the trio of Lone Star musicians.

"It's a hoot, especially the older we get," Hiatt says, noting that the quartet has been performing together periodically since 1989.

The connection among the musicians is Nashville, "and its bumps and bruises, fun times, good times and bad times," where all four of the performers migrated at one point during their careers.

"I knew Guy from here," Hiatt says, noting that both he and Clark arrived in Nashville around 1971. "I was around when Lyle came down; he was sort of the second generation. And I remember Joe coming into town. I used to run into Joe all over. He was sort of coming through L.A. when I was out there, and I remember going to see him at the Pantages when he opened for the Clash."

Lovett, Ely and Hiatt have strong followings, but Clark might be lesser known to the casual music fan. A contemporary of Townes Van Zandt, his songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs, among many others

Hiatt notes the audience that's coming to see the foursome certainly seem to know Clark, whom he calls the musical equivalent of author Cormac McCarthy.

"He transcends the act of writing," Hiatt says of Clark. "It's as if you don't really hear the song or see the story being written; you're in it."

The evening does provide a chance for Hiatt's music to be exposed to, say, Lovett's fans, and vice versa. It's also a challenge for each performer to come up with songs on the spur of the moment -- nothing is scripted, with each choosing a song in turn -- that provide a segue from the previous artist's song choice.

When the quartet first started performing together, Hiatt thought each artist might have been trying to one-up the next. But now, it's more about appreciating each other's talents.

"You follow a song and get so caught up in the fellow playing before you," he says. "Following Joe Ely, his song are so great, so dreamy and about traveling. He's always going somewhere in his songs. They often have this wonderful Spanish-American feel, some narrative, and they take you to this great place. And then I'm loathe to sing anything about my poor little life as this Midwestern kid. It's not nearly as interesting." Additional Information:

Details

'Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Joe Ely, Guy Clark: Together on Stage'

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Admission: $45 to $65

Where: Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland

Details: 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com .

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