Townes Van Zandt, Rear View Mirror

Andy Beta

By Andy Beta

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Stripped-back versions of Van Zandt classics

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 the Texas singer-songwriter was already among the walking dead, pickled from alcohol abuse and other unmentionables (see the doc Be Here to Love Me for the lurid escapades), while 1969's Live at Carnegie Hall found him downright frisky. Rear View Mirror stems from 1990, when Townes was re-addressing the often stilted studio performances of his best-known songs, stripping standards like “Lungs” and “Flyin'Shoes” back down to guitar and voice in front of a rapt audience. Guitarist Danny Rowland and fiddler Owen Cody back Van Zandt to varying effect. While Cody deftly emphasizes the harrowing phrases on "Tecumseh Valley," his sawing all but overshadows "Pancho & Lefty," burying both singer and song in the mix.