The Late Great Townes Van Zandt

(1972, 7.5/10)
The Late Great Townes Van Zandt was Van Zandt’s last studio album in his initial, prolific run; it was his sixth since 1968’s For The Sake of the Song, while he only recorded three further studio albums before his 1997 death. The album features his best known song, the parable-like ‘Pancho and Lefty’ which vaguely outlines a tale of two bandits, and which was made into a country standard via Emmylou Harris as well as a Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson duet. Another excellent track from the album, ‘If I Needed You’, is actually Van Zandt’s most covered song. The album has one of the more sympathetic production jobs of his discography, as it’s low key when it needs to be. As a Tolkien fan I’m always intrigued by ‘The Silver Ships of Andilar’ and its reference to Valinor, and it’s an interesting and successful sonic departure for Van Zandt, with its epic sweeping feel. Other strong songs include the typically mournful pieces ‘Sad Cinderella’ and ‘Snow Don’t Fall’. There is some lighter material, mostly in the form of cover songs like ‘Fraulein’ and ‘German Mustard (A Clapalong)’, and the strongest . A legal battle between producer Jack Clement and Poppy Records founder Kevin Eggers meant that the followup to The Late Great Townes Van Zandt wasn’t released until 1978.

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