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March 25, 2009

More Townes

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A few lovely performances from the late alt-country singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt, recently uploaded to YouTube:

I wrote a posting about Townes -- one of my favorite artists -- back here. Buy a copy of "Be Here to Love Me," Margaret Brown's poetic documentary about Townes, here. I see that Robert Earl Hardy has just published a biography of Townes. Here's the Townes Van Zandt website.



posted by Michael at March 25, 2009


Smack me, but I could never keep Townes Van Zandt and Van Dyke Parks straight.

In case anyone's wondering, Townes is no relation (except through Charlemagne, Mohammed, Adam, etc.) to Miami Steve Van Zandt, who carries a stepfather's name. Indeed, the very Batavian-sounding songwriting team of Van Zandt and Springsteen (he and Bruce wrote for Southside Johnny) were 75% Italian. Only Bruce is a sliver Dutch, through his paternal line.

I'm sure Townes, like Bruce, was eligible to walk behind the lofty beaver at the Holland Society dinner every year.

Posted by: Reg Cæsar on March 26, 2009 2:41 AM

Bizarre. Although I find you simpatico in 80% of your opinions, Michael, the remaining 20% is utterly, opaquely incomprehensible to me. Townes' music and performance is nothing to me. How can you stand listening to this straining-to-achieve-mediocrity artist? Too bland to bad. Sorry, I'm trying, really, but I just don't get it.

Posted by: Fredösphere on March 26, 2009 1:00 PM

Well, I'm not sure exactly what Fredosphere wants- even if you don't think much of Townes' voice, it's pretty hard to dismiss his songwriting- "To Live is to Fly", "Tower Song", "If I Needed You", "Flying Shoes", "Pancho & Lefty", "White Freightliner Blues"- covered by myriad artists and likely to be sung and played for a long time. Bland? Sparse. Heartfelt. Then again, it's all a matter of taste and I've been a fan of Townes' for a long time. I think a good album to start with is "Rearview Mirror".

Posted by: mdmnm on March 27, 2009 11:56 AM

I recently posted some Texas music over at my place; take a listen at the very last YouTube offering of Townes singing "Nothin'". Gives me a new heartache every time I listen.

Fredosphere: Townes is like fine sippin' whiskey - you gotta learn to take it neat.

I didn't appreciate Townes until I reached middle-age. He is a complex artist that takes time to savor, and maybe it also takes maturity on the listener's part.

But, to each their own for listening pleasure.

Townes Van Zandt is a Texas treasure. Maybe you have to have some of that renegade Texas blood in ya'll to appreciate fully?

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on March 27, 2009 3:38 PM

I first heard "Out Mother the Mountain" when I was around 20, and fell in love with his voice and his melodies. You don't have to have maturity, just a love of the High Lonesome.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on March 30, 2009 2:58 AM

"Be Here to Love Me" is a fine music biography, but miles from uplifting. Watching it, you can build up an righteous anger at the guy for his idiotic doping and drinking. What a waste.

Steve Earle once said Van Zant was a great teacher but a horrid role model.

Posted by: Glenn Abel on March 30, 2009 5:01 PM

I think Michael has blogged before about the correlation of really memorable, great artists and their personal tragedies.

Hard to separate the wheat from the chaff in that regard.

Sister Wolf, you were probably a rarity - appreciating Townes depth of soul at age 20. I certainly did not have enough life behind me to feel his art sufficiently until I was much older than 20.

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on March 31, 2009 9:47 PM

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