Townes Van Zandt

I finished reading a book about Townes just today, one I purchased more than a year ago, but picked up just a few days back. Its by his road manager/friend, and its wonderful.

I have always loved his music, but had a foggy picture of the man. No longer. The man, the music, just wonderful. And tragic. As is the book. I have pulled out my TVZ music and have been re-discovering it, re-interpreting it, in light of what I read in this great book.

My Years with Townes Van Zandt: Music, Genius, and Rage
by Harold F. Eggers with L.E. McCullough

I hope others here who appreciate TVZ will give it a read. I have the DVD of the movie about him, but the book has a lot more. A lot.

Saw/heard him just once, at the Bottom Line, NYC, in the 90s.
I saw him once, I think at the Troubadour.  Or was it McCabe's?  Rough, unpolished, utterly honest and endearing.
If you watch the PBS Country Music multi-part documentary, there's some pretty compelling footage of him.
Steve Earle has proclaimed Townes the best songwriter in the world, and said he would do so standing on Bob Dylan's coffee table. Steve released an entire album of Towne's songs back in 2009.
I wrote this little tribute to Townes Van Zandt's song "Pancho and Lefty" about ten years ago for another website.  Forgive the clumsiness of the formatting.  When it comes to formatting, this website is as ornery as a set of mismatched 8417 output tubes...

To my eyes, the power of Townes Van Zandt's Pancho and Lefty derives not from the “who does what to whom” aspect of the lyric as much as it comes from the emotions the lyric expresses and the uncompromising world view it evokes.

To me, the most important verse is the first one, which is one of my favorites in all of song.

“Livin’ on the road, my friend was gonna’ keep you free and clean.

Now you wear your skin like iron, your breath’s as hard as kerosene.

You weren’t your mama’s only boy but her favorite one it seems.

She began to cry when you said goodbye, and sank into your dreams.”

The verse gives us the theme of the song. It tells of the headstrong idealism of the young, and how it is ultimately supplanted by weariness and cynicism. Lefty, and all of us, go out into the world thinking we’re its master. In time, the world masters us.  Mom understands this. But there’s nothing she can do.

Another key verse is the one that begins, “Lefty he can’t sing the blues all night long as he used to. The dust that Poncho bit down south, ended up in Lefty’s mouth.”

In other words, whatever treachery or betrayal Lefty might have perpetrated on Poncho (and it could have been as relatively innocent as being unable to come to Poncho’s aid when Poncho needed him), it eats away at Lefty for the rest of his days.   Once upon a time, Lefty might have been able to carouse and sing all night long (sure, blues songs are known as sad songs, but I don’t think Townes Van Zandt means it this way here), but Lefty’s guilt has robbed him of his zest for life. Ironically, in allowing Poncho to be killed, Lefty dies as well.

@edsyn, so you're saying that it doesn't end well for Lefty despite the fact that he ends up in Cleveland? 

Seriously, TVZ was a talent for sure.  I knew nothing of him prior to watching the PBS video, after which, I bought a copy of the Late Great Townes Van Zandt.  Great songwriting for sure.  He more than does justice to Hank Williams and the delta blues.  

For those of you who know his music well, what other albums should I be looking into?
On a somewhat related note, Lucinda Williams told me to watch the movie Blaze about Blaze Foley.  Townes Van Zandt is a central character in the story.  Oh, and it was at a concert of Lucinda's, so she told a few thousand other people to check it out. 
@brownsfan , I recommend Rearview Mirror.  It was the first Townes I ever heard.  I was in a music store in Iowa City, and they had it playing on the PA. I went over to the guy and said, "What is this??"   He grinned and said, "I know, isn't it great?"

I've seen some negative reviews on it, but they didn't ring true to me.  The thing I like about it is there's very little production involved.  It's very stripped down and simple and immediate, which, if you ask me, is exactly how his music ought to sound. 
@trentmephis, I picked up Rearview and got a listen last night.  Really good.  Thanks for the recommendation.   TVZ was a really talent.
Thrilled you're enjoying it!  That's very gratifying.  Music recommendations are really hard, even when limited to a single performer.

Indeed he was.  Talented and tragic.