what do you do when you get laid off from one of the most wonderful day jobs and have absolutely no money for film, food or rent? you buy the record youve always been wanting. i may be irrational (and very broke) but i’m still smiling.
If you’ve never listened to Townes Van Zandt, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. He’s the real deal, a man who wrote some of the saddest songs you’ll ever hear and lived a few too many of them himself. If you’re new to his work, though, I’d recommend you start with this live double-album, Live At the Old Quarter. It’s got almost all his best songs with no studio trickery–just one man and his acoustic guitar, playing for a crowded room held still and quiet. I chose this particular track–“Fraternity Blues”–because it displays something about Zandt that wasn’t always obvious: The man had one hell of a sense of humor.
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:
Townes Van Zandt - “No Place to Fall” (Live at The Old Quarter, Houston, TX)
A great live version of this Townes track, Stu and I have spent many a whiskey hazed night crying inside together to this one and others from the king of despondency.
Recently, I’ve been displaced and sort of vagabonding again. There is a clear end to this current displacement, but those old memories come back so quickly. This song fills my head many days.
For several years, Townes Van Zandt has been one of the artists that some of my closest bro-friends and I have listened to together when times were too hard for talking (Gram Parsons being the other artist). Gallagher, Derek, and Stu have shared those moments with me where we just poured the whiskey and listened to songs like “No Place to Fall,” letting Townes do the speaking, the weeping, the feeling for us.
So, as of late, I’ve had to ask for a place to crash, and I can’t help but hear myself singing, "Well, if I had no place to fall and I needed to, could I count on you to lay me down?“
And when Townes sings, "I ain’t much of a lover it’s true. I’m here then I’m gone, and I’m forever blue,” something inside me tugs.
Sometimes I feel so completely lost. I feel like no one could possibly understand. But then I listen to Townes, and I know he does. "Oh time, she’s a fast old train. She’s here then she’s gone, but she won’t come again.“
Family history book, 1989. Photo courtesy of the Coleman family.
The family history in this book was compiled by a Caucasian (Lucy Pierson Welsh), a member of the family that my family had been with since 1820, until my maternal grandmother (Hattie Williams 11/27/1907-3/13/2003) retired around 1996. Lucy gifted a copy of the book to my grandmother with an inscription “Hattie, a complimentary copy of the Dickenson-Turner family of Chestnut Valley, Miss Lucy, 2/15/89.”
In the book it talks about how my great-great grandfather Killis Turner (born 1851) was a man servant at the Chestnut Valley Plantation. His father James was born around 1820. The book goes on to say that my grandmother met her husband, my maternal grandfather (Lafayette Williams 6/10/1902-8/21/2005); on the plantation/farm, and that they married and lived in the old slave quarters there. I have many family photos with this book and I have researched my family tree, on both sides of my family back to 1820. It’s been an interesting and emotional journey!
Arcade: He liked cats, he gave them a quick once over before returning to the fort kittens bundled up in his arms, he insisted they lived in his old quarters to julie, the patients enjoyed the new company, arcade kept a cat for himself, he named her nuntius, latin for courier, he’d walk around smugly with the cat round his shoulders, both judging everybody
Boone: He didn’t like cat’s he was allergic, he dropped them off at Daisy’s house in Novac who excepted the fluffballs happily
Lily: “Oh you poor babies grandma take care of you now” nobody was allowed near her kitties except for six, she built them a little play room in the lucky 38 and brought them fresh milk daily
Raul: He identified with the little guys knowing what it was like to feel helpless, he found them all responsible loving homes, wouldn’t let them go unless he knew they’d be safe, he keeps one naming him miguel
Cass: She thinks it’s just a drunken mirage, goes back when she’s sober to find they were real, she takes the kittens to the outpost, she doesn’t have time for pets but couldn’t leave them to die, makes them swear to feed and protect them
Veronica: squeals excitedly, sticking her face inot the box and nuzzling the kittens, she named all of them after her friends at the lucky 38, would sleep in bed with a bunch of kitties curled up on her, she trained them to hiss at boone for her own amusement
Rex: He sits by them howling till six comes by, refusing to move until six brings the kittens with them
are there any albums where u like every second single song ? / what was the first album u fell in love with
There are loads of albums where I like every single song!!! To name a few, there’s Lonerism, all the big star albums, probably the first 6 Belle & Sebastian albums, Grace by Jeff Buckley, what’s going on by Marvin Gaye, innervisions by Stevie Wonder, Stand! By Sly and the family Stone, all the smiths albums pretty much, marquee moon & adventure by television and live at the old quarter by Townes Van Zandt!! There are many many more tbh
The first album I fell in love with, I can’t know for sure but it might have been the smiths by (you guessed it) the smiths or if you’re feeling sinister by Belle & Sebastian?? Or maybe Donny Hathaway live?? Or maybe what’s going on?? I really don’t know but it’s definitely one of those I think ✨💕✨💕✨💕
There were faces in the room that recognized him, but he had no names for them. He didn’t know them apart. Maybe one or two he had seen on the street in passing, but who they were in relation to him, he didn’t have a clue. Rory tensed immediately when he hesitantly left the locked, near empty bedroom he’d woken up in and ventured down the unfamiliar, barren hallway to what he could only decipher as an old warehouse turned living quarters. A high ceiling protected decrepit equipment pressed up against towering walls to allow for a makeshift living room with a random assortment of chairs, a love seat and a couch. The furniture was in dismal condition, but seemed suitably repaired to the occupants of the re-purposed warehouse with the use of a ridiculous amount of duct tape. In the center of the living arrangement, though, no expense seemed to have been spared for a high quality entertainment system. On top of a box, a 50 inch flat screen tv sat with game consoles and a tower of games and movies cluttered around it.
Two young, tattooed men sitting on the couch with controllers in their hands looked up when he entered the room. Immediately they paused the racing game they were playing and looked up at him. A woman stood beside a hastily crafted table not far from the make-shift living room; while the boys felt more wary and cautious of his presence, she seemed more attentive upon it.
Idris. Judging from the way they looked at him with recognition and didn’t question who he was, he must have been Idris to them. Rory had never been aware of what he did with his face, his body, when he was out cold. Usually Idris was on point with his timing, but something must have gone wrong. Never had Rory woken up here before, nor had he ever woken up within proximity of any of these people. He was in the heart of a lion’s den. One wrong move might be fatal here. He could only imagine the kind of people that someone like Idris attracted. Dangerous could only attract more dangerous.
“What are you looking at?” Rory said roughly, trying to imitate the roughness in Idris’s voice from the threatening videos he’d once watched when he tried to set up hidden cameras to see what the criminal alter did with his body when he was asleep. It only worked for a week before Idris discovered them and promptly used them against him. A tenseness tightened in his face as he tensed his jaw, grinding his teeth like a dog’s on a bone as he waited for someone to respond.