So you know he's an Important Artist, and you even like some of what you've heard by him. Thus, you want a little bit of quality Van Zandt for yourself. But there's seemingly an infinite number of albums out there, all recycling, often in a dizzying array of versions, a very finite body of songs. What to do? For many, this 1977 album of a 1973 solo concert in an intimate club has always been the only solution. Here are deeply-felt versions of the tortured Townes 'finest early songs — "Pancho and Lefty" (probably his best-known), "Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold," "If I Needed You," White Freightliner Blues," "Tecumseh Valley"… it's an undeniably impressive body of work. Forget that his heart didn't give out until 1997 — most of his best work in the last quarter-century of his life was simply new interpretations of his best early work. Further, his studio albums were invariably mucked-up with superfluous arrangements, when the man's strongest suit, at least until his drinking and drugging caught up with him, was his solo acoustic performances. There, his bluesy picking (as on "Brand New Companion"), his bad jokes and loopy personality and his gift for the lacerating talking blues ("Fraternity Blues") stood out as much as his songs. Plus, this comes from a time when an adventurous spirit shared a place in his soul with world weariness and morbidity — the man could really sing before his dissipation took over everything he did. This is the one truly essential Townes Van Zandt album.
By John Morthland on 09.30.14 in Features
The man who invented modern Americana was also its biggest cut-up.
By Andy Beta on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Ever since a heart attack on New Year's Day in 1997 (44 years to the day of his idol Hank Williams'death) laid Townes Van Zandt in his grave, a steady stream of archival tapes continues to surface. Some reveal th...
By Michael Corcoran on 04.22.11 in Reviews
People forget this, of course, but Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was actually a big record release date. I was at home that morning working on a review of Poet: A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt, which would hit stores that d...
By Peter Blackstock on 01.01.05 in Spotlights
Arguably the most influential live albums in pop music history were a pair of country records — Johnny Cash's late-'60s couplet of concerts recorded at Folsom Prison and San Quentin. Though Cash had been a star sin...