I just picked up "Our Mother The Mountain" which is 1 of his earliest recordings and "Rear View Mirror" which is a later live compilation. Both superb and gives you a good overview of the breadth and depth of his work.
I saw the film a few weeks ago when they had the annual film festival here, great flick. The producer and cinematographer were here for it and answered questions afterwards, pretty interesting stuff. She said they spent about 4 years on the project and they had enough footage to do 3 or 4 documentaries. Stay tuned for more to come!
acoustic blue, high, low and in between. are excellent but sonics are so-so.Poet a tribute cd on frefall records is also good. on of the great texas songwriters.
Townes was an excellent singer/storyteller/songwriter of the Tex Mex folk genre who left us way too early. You need to exercise some care though when you sample his recordings, as there are too many poorly recorded live albums that have been released. Some recordings that I can recommend are:
1. Texas Rain: The Texas Hill Country Recordings
These represent some of Townes' best songs that he recorded as duets with a number of folk/country performers. The recording quality is excellent, as well. The songs & duet partners are:
1. If I Needed You - (with Emmylou Harris)
2. Pancho & Lefty - (with Freddy Fender/Rubin Ramos & The Texas Revolution/Doug Sahm/Augie Meyers)
3. Waiting Around To Die - (with Calvin Russell)
4. Blue Wind Blew - (with Jerry Jeff Walker)
5. Kathleen - (with The Chromatics)
6. No Lonesome Tune - (with Willie Nelson)
7. Brother Flower - (with Kimmie Rhodes)
8. Two Girls - (with Doug Sahm)
9. Marie - (with Willie Nelson)
10. Quicksilver Daydreams Of Maria - (with Freddy Fender/Rubin Ramos & The Texas Revolution/Doug Sahm/Augie Meyers)
11. Snowin' On Raton - (with James McMurty)
12. At My Window - (with Kathy Mattea)
2. Texas Troubadour
This is a 4 CD box set that represents much of Townes' best work, such as Tecumseh Valley (later covered by Nancy Griffith); Pancho and Lefty; and Kathleen.
If you like Townes' work, another artist to check out is Bill Staines. Bill has a greatest hits collection (The Second Million Miles) coming out this month.
Rich- thanks for the overview; I've been disappointed with the sonics on some of TVZ recordings I've bought. And don't miss the Nancy Griffith/Arlo Guthrie duet of Tecumseh Valley on her "Other Voices Other Rooms cd.
For a while, it seemed that there was a new Townes' release everytime I went to a store ... and some sounded just terrible ... like they were recorded in the 30's or 40's or on a portable cassette recorder (think of Elvis' Hayride Recordings or some of the Louis Armstrong compilations). And then I read somewhere about his estate being a mess and different companies owning and/or fighting over the rights to his songs.
If you pick up "Texas Rain" you will not be disappointed. There was also a tribute album that came out a few years back that is pretty OK ... especially if you like Townes' stories and his way with words.
As for Nancy's cover of "Tecumseh Valley" on "Other Voices" ... kind of a shame really. I always felt that Arlo dropped the ball as his voice didn't really convey the sense of quiet despair and inability to change one's fate that the song's main character was living (a girl in some dusty small town that goes from being an abused child to the local call girl). On "Marie" from the "Texas Rain" collection though, you can't help but be moved by Willie Nelson's telling the story of a down on his luck migrant worker, who is defeated by life as he can't even provide life's basics for his pregnant girlfriend/wife and she winds up dying. As you can guess, many of Townes's topics are about the underdogs and the struggle that life can be. Very powerful stuff nonetheless.
lot of tvz stuff out there, for sure.
perhaps my favorite is
live at the old quarter
a young tvz, playing solo in houston. if you're one of the folks who thinks some of his stuff is overarranged (like some tracks on high, low and in between) this 2 disc set is especially nice. among the highlights are white freight liner blues, and who do you love?. been a while since i listened, and could not check right now (gal is still sleeping), but i think the recording is better than rear view mirror.
also fun is
live covers including racing in the streets and ira hayes.
as mlauner said, the tribute record
is also pretty good, with a lovely tower song by nanci griffith.
while in the neighborhood, why not check out vic chesnut's
west of rome
voice not for everyone, but good songwriting.
finally, richard buckners's first record,
has some of the best song writing i know about in the tvz vein ("I shot my insides out, with grief and mister kestler")
better stop now.
enjoy the discs, john
I recently picked up his eponymous album, re-released in 2003 on a label called Sunspots out of Italy. It was originally released in 1969 and the remaster is of excellent quality. According to the liner notes it was his third album originally put out by Poppy Records. It's a quiet, acoustic album of great songs, very thoughtful and enjoyable. I highly recommend it.
Of the Townes Van Zandt I have is on LP format. Three on the Tomato label & one on the Poppy label. The Texas Rain sounds excellent, is it aviable on LP format?
I believe "Texas Rain" is a CD only release. Tomato Records hasn't done many new vinyl releases since the late 80's/early 90's. The CD has very good sonics and performances, so it's worth picking up.
thanks fellas for the recommendations, I've got some of thoses discs on the way. rich...thanks & seeing those marantz pieces sure brings back alot of good early 70's memories. cheers
Fat Possum records just reissued some of the eary stuff....picked up Flying Shoes & self titled today. nice
So........... Does anybody know if the new shiny 180gm Fat Possum releases stack up to the sound of the original ones? You know how reissues go some times, I need not start to make the list of lousy, jump on the band wagon reissue junk out there. If I want to fell blue, I'll fire up a Townes vinyl instead of gett'in my blues from vinyl buyers remorse. I'm interested in Flyin' Shoes and Live At The Old Quarter, Houston Texas, my old copies are a little beat. Hoping for Delta Momma Blues as well.
The best calls have already been made here. You might want to call McCabe's Guitar in Santa Monica. They sell a "TVZ Live at McCabe's" that puts a different spin on some of his songs. Not TVZ at his greatest, but good nonetheless.
BTW, you should check out the DVD of the soundtrack you already have. TVZ was a bit of a nut and his story is compelling as told in this film.
Understand Steve Earle has just released his tribute to Townes Van Zandt simply called "Townes". Haven't had a chance to get this recording, but if anybody should do a tribute to Townes it's Steve Earle as Steve was most certainly a protégé of Townes Van Zant.
Btw here's a short review from the Dallas - Fort Worth Times.
"Steve Earle dedicating an entire album to the late Townes Van Zandt should elicit the same response as when Dwight Yoakam finally cranked out a full CD of the late Buck Owens' tunes. It's about time!
Earle could be called the Townes Van Zandt of his generation, a self-destructive singer-songwriter who lived every word he wrote. The difference is Earle saved himself just in time while Van Zandt succumbed to his excesses.
Comprising hand-picked covers, Townes certainly will resonate with Earle devotees. Tracks such as "To Live Is to Fly," "Lungs," "Where I Lead Me" and the classic "Pancho and Lefty" are honored in stripped-down form, just as Van Zandt did them. After a while, however, the weight of such sobering material can seem too much to bear.
Still, as tributes go, "Townes" is sincere and compelling. It befits both men."
... and this is review from the Houston Press. Guess I'm going to buy this recording this weekend.
"Considered by many to be the best Americana songwriter, living or dead, Townes Van Zandt certainly never made it the way Steve Earle has. But on Townes, Earle mines Van Zandt's prolific songbook to pay homage as only a true student of the master could. Shrewdly observing that Van Zandt's work couldn't stand (and doesn't need) much tinkering, Earle keeps "Pancho and Lefty" and "White Freight Liner Blues" solidly true to Van Zandt's originals. When Earle does depart from the Townes formula, though, the results are magnificent; "No Place To Fall" and "Loretta" have a lilting Irish elegance, and "Brand New Companion" also pays homage to Lightnin' Hopkins, whom both Earle and Van Zandt studied like biblical scholars scouring the Dead Sea Scrolls. The dark and tragic "Marie" pours out of Earle like a deathbed confession, and the poetic "Rake" seems to have a timeless connection with the ancient. Townes's clever poker paean "Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold" is putty in Earle's hands, and "(Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria" is the type of dazzling love song that has become a signature part of Earle's own repertoire. Townes is undoubtedly a true-north homage done with loving care and reverence, but by the time it's over, listeners realize just how much influence van Zandt had on Earle's own writing, delivery and, ultimately, his higher-profile career."
Just a note ... you really need to be a fan of Steve Earle and his sound to appreciate this album. These are definitely Steve's versions of TVZ's songs, as opposed to an album of covers. I am not Steve's biggest fan and I have had a difficult time listening to/ getting my head around this album.
Cleaneduphippy: I've not heard the whole disc yet, but I heard a few cuts on NPR, and I fear I'm with Rich here; I was not drawn in, tho to be fair, I've not liked what of SE's recent stuff I've heard. Please do let us know what you think; I'd be curious to hear an opinion after a full listen.
For fans of Texas stuff, do check out Hayes Carll -- a good bit like the Earle of Train a Comin', but to my mind better (no faint praise). Trouble in Mind got some good press, and I like his previous release, Little Rock, even better.