Yes, I let this blog slip a ton. I think for my second post I’ll be trying something a bit different. I’ll be talking about individual albums instead of artists in general. For some (like what will follow this brief introduction), this will include a bit of info on how I discovered the artist. That was part of the reason I started this in the first place, and I think trying to cover EVERYTHING about an artist was both too much work and too general to be effective. So, without further ado, post #2:
Townes Van Zandt is an amazing songwriter. So you don’t like country music, that’s fine with me. You don’t have to. Just know that, by writing off an entire genre like that, you’re really doing yourself a disservice.
I was first introduced to TVZ at the Belmont bar in Hamtramck on the 4th of July, 2010. Chris Tait/Tait Nucleus? of the Electric Six was bartending. I was there with my roommate, who was doing coke on the back patio while fireworks were going off throughout the neighborhood. If I am not mistaken, there was a playlist put out by DJ Jazzy Jeff of “Fresh Prince” fame playing that night. At some point, this song came on:
I had never been too big on country up until then, but apparently it effected me enough to make we want to remember it. I did what I always did in that situation (having yet to join the rest of the world in smartphone ownership) and sent myself a text with some of the lyrics that I could make out: “Close your eyes, I’ll be here in the morning”.
The problem was, I did not remember doing that the next day. All I knew was that I had a really creepy-sounding text in my phone. I kept it, thinking that it may one day prove to be important. I can’t remember how long it took me to look up the lyrics in google, but it was a while. When I finally did, though, I started to explore the artist a bit more and I loved what I found.
Live at the Old Quarter is easily TVZ’s best album. I don’t usually go for live albums, but this is how he’s meant to be listened to. All of his other albums are way over-produced to fit into the trends found in country music at the time. TVZ’s music has always been about two things, though: his voice and the guitar. That’s what’s so great about Live…, that’s all you get. And it’s wonderful.
Fans of the show True Detective may recognize this song, a particular favorite of mine:
It’s one of the rare tracks of his for which the studio version sounds pretty good, but the solo version is just so much better. Pretty much everything he wrote that was worth playing at that show he played, too. Not much is missing. The only song that springs to mind is German Mustard
, but, well, the studio version pretty much nailed it that time:
My favorite part, though? His jokes. He’s a real soft-spoken guy, but he can deliver a joke very adeptly. Somehow his demeanor just makes them more funny. They’re a bit off-color, maybe not meant for polite company, but I do plan to memorize and tell them to people.
It’s a long album, but it is really worth the effort. If you’re a fan of great songwriters, this guy often gets overlooked. He’s right up there with Dylan and Prine in my book, and that’s mighty fine company.
Oh! And if you are so inclined, there is an excellent documentary about his life (which is genuinely fascinating). The trailer is below: