The last living rebel of country music

You must be a country-music obsessive if you know Cowboy Jack Clement from his songwriting credits on such underappreciated Johnny Cash songs as “Guess Things Happen That Way” and “Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog.” But even if you haven’t picked up a country album since the day Garth Brooks strode into Nashville, you’ll find a lot to appreciate in this off-the-wall documentary that reveals one of the genre’s most eccentric personalities and explores the true meaning of the country, um, lifestyle.

A former sound engineer at Sam Phillips’s Sun Records, Clement, now 76, still lives in Memphis, where he videotapes every fellow musician he befriends — whether it’s Cash (smoking a cigarette at the grave of
country forefather A.P. Carter, his uncle-in-law) or Bono (impersonating Don Corleone on a break from Rattle and Hum). He’s also fond of holding jam sessions in his modest home recording studios, building a massive archive of tunes and song fragments the public may never hear. Unlike today’s country-music millionaires who (barely) pretend to be outlaws, Clement lives his life this way not because he has to but because he can.

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WATCH Cowboy Jack Clement perform “Let’s All Help the Cowboys (Sing the Blues)”

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