This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 4/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Some are born wedded to words as if a poetic gift was bestowed at birth. Such seems the case of the late Townes Van Zandt, a craftsman who blended wistfulness and fatalism with a scarred but indubitable countenance. His simple melodies and straightforward music alone don't create an indelible impression but when synergistically combined with his eminent lyrical talent, make for a subtle but powerful union.
Van Zandt, who died at age 52 on New Year's Day, 1997 possessed a faculty for storytelling, taking a twist here or adding a quirk there, abetting his lore as one who said a lot with very little. That signature is certainly on display with this tapestry of songs. He proffers wounded wisdom here, a fateful acceptance of life's knocks, without bitterness, as a way of life.
His clear and emotive voice sometimes edges into a slight drawl, adding to his authenticity as an Americana poet. Sometimes compared to the late Hank Williams for his ability to crawl inside himself and put to music the pain and suffering of life ("... we all got holes to fill, them holes are all that's real..."), Van Zandt goes far beyond Williams with his vivid, image-laden descriptions and depictions of life.
Surprisingly, maybe amazingly considering there are 17 songs contained here, there are truly no throwaway or insignificant cuts. Offered are the well-known Van Zandt songs ("Pancho & Lefty," "If I Needed You," "Our Mother The Mountain," "Tecumseh Valley," and "Waitin' Round To Die") along with many others ("Flying Shoes," "Dollar Bill Blues," "Tower Song," and "Rex's Blues") that easily hold their own against the better-known compositions.
Van Zandt, on acoustic guitar and vocals, is ably and simply backed by Danny Rowland on acoustic guitar and Owen Cody on fiddle. Cody does a marvelous job adding depth and feeling with his fiddle interspersions.
Although there are many Van Zandt releases available, this is a superb introduction to his prodigious talent and scope of work. Anyone unfamiliar with his music should get this release and make up for lost time by glueing themselves to their CD player for a while. This "live" album contains quick fadeouts of applause after each cut so for those of you who detest this or feel audience sounds or the vocal interactions of band members detract from the music--consider yourself forewarned. But don't cheat yourself; if not this one, make sure you get another Townes Van Zandt offering.
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