Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Jim Clark: News

New Byron Herbert Reece Poem/Song from The Near Myths! - March 18, 2013

My band, The Near Myths, will release our third CD,  . . . and into the flow,  this spring.  Here is a YouTube video for the final song on the album, "There Never Was Time," based on a poem by Byron Herbert Reece.


Check Out YouTube Video for "One Night Late" - June 10, 2011

Just posted a new slideshow video on YouTube for "One Night Late" which I hope you'll check out:


Thanks to the People Who Made The Service of Song Possible - November 30, 2010

First and foremost, The Musicians, most of them my good friends:


Jim Clark                              vocals, 6 & 12-string guitars, banjo,  autoharp, harmonica, pennywhistle

Phil Valera                           bass, organ, piano, keyboards, percussion

Terry “Teep” Phillips       lead guitar

Katy Adams                        vocals

Matthew Adams               drums

Pattie Hopkins                   violin

John Wright                        recorders

Mike Hamer                        hammered dulcimer

Webster Struthers              mandolin

Eddie Fernandes               percussion


My partner, collaborator, and friend Phil Valera:  Co-producer, engineer, arranger.

John Kay and The Byron Herbert Reece Society.

Coleman Barks, whose innocent question in the summer of 2009 inspired the whole project.

My friend Ben Greene who offered much helpful advice on early versions of the songs.

Keith Tew, for the beautiful design work.

Bob Katz, for the mastering.

Byron Herbert Reece Biographical Essay from The Service of Song - November 29, 2010

The Service of Song


                                                            For this is the service of song:

                                                            To brighten the dim


                                                            Coin of a kingdom whose king

                                                            Lies centuries asleep,

                                                            To render the humblest thing

                                                            To memory’s keep.


                                                                                      “The Service of Song,” Byron Herbert Reece


                Byron Herbert Reece was born in 1917 in a cabin on a small farm near Choestoe, in Union County, Georgia.  From the mid 1940s to the mid 1950s he published four books of poems and two novels, all with E.P. Dutton in New York, and all receiving generally favorable reviews.  Syndicated reviewer Edward M. Case in a 1955 review declared, “It seems to me that with the exception of Robert Frost, Reece is our greatest living poet, and even Frost is not so pure a lyricist, nor as strong and lonely a voice.” 

                Reece’s mother and father had contracted tuberculosis by the mid-1930s, and Reece faithfully tended their mountain farm, even while accepting visiting writing positions at the University of California at Los Angeles, Emory University, and the University of Georgia.  Reece was never able to reconcile the exhausting physical demands of farming with the time and energy his literary career required of him.  He addressed this conflict humorously in an article he wrote for 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.  ‘Anybody can plow potatoes,’ she said.  ‘Anybody can plow potatoes,’ I wrote in return, ‘but nobody is willing to plow mine but me.’”  Reece’s exasperation with his situation is apparent in a 1952 letter in which he says simply that farming and writing both “make too many demands on your energy and time.”  He eventually contracted the tuberculosis that killed both his parents, which further sapped his energy.  Depressed by his deteriorating health and the prospect of hospitalization and dependency, he took his own life on June 3, 1958, in his quarters on the campus of Young Harris College, in Northern Georgia, where he was teaching at the time.  He was 40 years old.

                Reece’s biographer Bettie Sellers recounts that Reece remembered his parents attending song fests where local people “would congregate at the home of someone, preferably a person of good voice who knew a lot of songs, and sing away the Sunday afternoons."  He also remembered his mother’s pure, clear voice singing lullabies, some of which he later learned derived from the Child ballads of England and Scotland.  As an adult, though, Reece seemed to prefer Classical music, and he would often speak of the pleasure he took in listening to it on the radio and later on phonograph records he would save his money to purchase.  Several of Reece’s own Christmas poems were set to music by Kenneth Walton and published by Boosey and Hawkes during his lifetime, and near the end of his life he worked on the libretto for an opera based on the traditional ballad “Mattie Groves” in collaboration with John Vincent, director of the Department of Music at UCLA, where Reece had once served a stint as Writer in Residence.

                Byron Herbert Reece is unquestionably the bard of the North Georgia Mountains, but his scope and his appeal are much wider.  Though Reece was a product of and participant in his tiny community of Choestoe, his solitary nature as a writer, exacerbated by his tuberculosis, along with his wider experience of the world, afforded him a larger and more objective perspective on his community.  His poems and novels together comprise a richly detailed narrative of an Appalachian farming community confronting the modern world as seen through the penetrating eyes of an intimate stranger.  Would Reece have appreciated these musical settings of his poems?  I can’t say.  Thankfully I don’t have to fear his judgment, which could sometimes be pointed.  I’d like to think maybe he would hear in some of them echoes of the old hymns and ballads he loved as a child.  At any rate, I hope they do his life and his art some useful service.


The Service of Song on YouTube - November 29, 2010

Check out these two slide-show videos on YouTube:


I Go by Ways of Rust and Flame


The Stay-at-Home

The Service of Song Released - November 28, 2010

Hooray! Jim Clark's second solo CD, The Service of Song, featuring musical settings of poems by the north Georgia "farmer-poet" Byron Herbert Reece, was officially released on November 22, 2010.

RSS feed