Townes Van Zandt was, I suppose, a country-folk artist, but primarily he was a songwriter. I know more people who have passed on his music than got hooked because his songs seem ordinary and unremarkable. I felt the same way until I learned to play a few of his songs, and then they began to feel like my songs, like they were coming from me. I’ve spoken to musicians who have had similar experiences with Townes’s music. It takes a while to catch on to it, and then it subtly penetrates and resonates and takes over. “Highway Kind” was the first song that crept up on me like that.
The YouTube video for it can’t be embedded, so here’s the straight up audio: Highway Kind
“It’s a shame that it’s not enough. It’s shame that it is a shame.” I rarely listen to Townes Van Zandt these days because he’s unbearably sad most of the time, but I still appreciate him. He led me away from conventional white rock music and got me listening more to music that could be played by one person as opposed to produced in a studio. The calm, quiet water often runs the deepest. Or something like that.
My CD pre-order of Jolie Holland’s new album, Pint of Blood, has been delayed until mid-July. So I’m listening to the entire album streaming from Paste Magazine. The streaming was supposed to end on June 28th, but I guess someone at Paste forgot to pull the plug.
I’m on track 6 now, a new interpretation of “The Littlest Birds.” It’s all good, man, it’s all good. Fans who appreciate what she can do with a good band like in the 2007 and 2009 Daytrotter Sessions will probably enjoy the ride. I know I am. I’m loving everything she does. I love her musical sensibilities, how she incorporates her traditional bluesy influences and makes them her own, how she continually evolves as an artist.
I’m on the last track now, a piano and violin (or carpenters saw?) cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Rex’s Blues.” It’s killer. Another beautiful album from Jolie Holland.
I’ve seen the Townes Van Zandt documentary, Be Here to Love Me, and it’s not exactly great. As a big fan of his music, I had high hopes. But this documentary didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about him, nor will the film enlighten many newcomers to his music. If the filmmakers’ intention was to present the lifestory of Townes Van Zandt, they only got it half-right by presenting bits and pieces of his life; they didn’t tell much of a story.
The most interesting aspect of the DVD is the bonus material, unused fragments of interviews with Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris and others, along with performances by Townes and others who knew him. J.T. Van Zandt, the oldest son of Townes Van Zant, does a remarkable job of the song, “Nothin’.” He looks and sounds a lot like his father. Guy Clark recalls this story Townes told him about something he learned in science class in grade 3 (short clip, contains profanity).
As the only biographical film of Townes Van Zandt out there, it’s worth a look, but otherwise not what I’d call a must-see film. Too bad.