“There are only two kinds of songs; there’s the blues, and there’s zip-a-dee-doo-dah.” – Townes Van Zandt
Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997) was a Texan folk, blues, and country musician, most notable for his profound songs. His debut album, 1968’s For The Sake Of The Song, suffered from overbearing arrangements; even though Van Zandt’s a fine songwriter, his albums can feel indifferent as he was not enthused about the recording process. 1969’s Our Mother The Mountain is slathered with strings, but they help give the album a brooding atmosphere that matches Van Zandt’s tales of despair:
Van Zandt’s subsequent albums were better produced, focusing often on just Van Zandt and his guitar. His third, self-titled, album featured an acoustic version of one of his most iconic songs, ‘Waitin’ ‘Round To Die’, with its despairing worldview.
Van Zandt’s best songs were generally melancholic, although ‘Mr Mudd and Mr Gold’, a verbose parable of a poker game from 1971’s High, Low and In Between, was a notable exception.
Van Zandt’s most celebrated album is arguably 1977’s Live at the Old Quarter, which presents his most best known work with just Van Zandt’s voice and guitar. Here he performs his most well-known song, ‘Pancho and Lefty’.
After 1972’s The Late, Great Townes Van Zandt, Van Zandt didn’t return to the recording studio until 1978’s accomplished Flyin’ Shoes, which gave his songs a more commercial country sheen, with excellent songs like the title track:
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