- Audio CD (22 April 2002)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Charly
- ASIN: B000063589
- Other Editions: Audio CD | MP3 Download
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 542,363 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
I had never heard of Townes Van Zandt as a 14-year-old Cowboy Junkies fan. I went to a Cowboy Junkies concert in Seattle in 1990, and Van Zandt was the opening act, and I think, even at my young and inexperienced age, I knew then I would never see a live show much more engaging than Van Zandt's opening act. He told stories between songs and connected with the audience on a very human level. I am not a fan of country music, and Van Zandt has a bit of a country feel, but his songwriting transcends the boundaries of categorisation.
I did not buy any of his albums until a few years later, just before his untimely demise. I started with this album because it included many songs I had heard and showcased Van Zandt's superior creativity and songwriting talents. The Cowboy Junkies (one of my favourite bands) had written songs with him and for him (and he for them), recording a beautiful version of his "To Live Is To Fly" on their album Black-Eyed Man. On the same album they recorded Van Zandt's "Cowboy Junkies Lament" (another stunning song, which Van Zandt recorded on one of his albums although it is not included in this compilation.)
This collection has an inherent beauty and a certain "on the road" quality to it. The album provides a variety of Townes'style with more serious ballads like'"High, Low, and in Between" and "Snow Don't Fall" (my two personal favourites) and more playful songs like "No Deal" and the very fitting closing song "Heavenly Houseboat Blues."
When I was 14 I might not have appreciated fully what I was seeing, but now that many friends, acquaintances, and music fans everywhere lament that they never saw Townes Van Zandt live (and did not necessarily give him the credit due him in his lifetime), I can feel blessed that I saw him, listened to him, and loved the experience... well, thanks to the Cowboy Junkies...
It also remains, after having collected essentially all of Van Zandt's studio recordings, one of my favorites. For one thing, it contains a lot of happy songs ("No Lonesome Tune", "Greensboro Woman" and "No Deal", for starters) -- distinctively, as Van Zandt is famous for the lovely loneliness of his writing.
The CD also includes several gospel numbers (a subset of the happy songs): "Two Hands", "When He Offers His Hand" and "Heavenly Houseboat Blues".
The CD also has several covers. Though Van Zandt didn't eschew covers like certain other famous songwriters do, this CD has four, where most of his studio albums have none or one.
So the net result is that this CD, while feeling completely Van Zandt-ish, has a very upbeat, light, folky feel to it.
And of course, "If I Needed You" and "Pancho and Lefty" are on it.
Buy the album.
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