Monday, June 30, 2008

Music To Read By......

How cool is it that? - As i'm reading the first Townes Van Zandt biography - one of his most sought-after and impassioned albums gets a re-issue. Live At The Old Quarter is - you guessed it - a live recording of Townes at his best (before his destructive ways started to effect his live shows). It came out on June 17th, but i had to wait to get it until today when my eMusic downloads refreshed - and promptly used 'em all up.

The Old Quarter was a dive bar in Houston, TX where "blue jeans and blue collars came together for the good music and cold beer." (Earl Willis - producer and engineer of the album) It saw the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins, Jerry Jeff Walker, and - of course - Townes come through in the early parts of their careers. One hot night in 1973, Townes gave the packed house a 27-song set filled with some of his most classic songs.

John Kruth, the book's author, mentions how Townes' studio recordings were often mauled by bad production as well as sub-par studio players. The problem, according to John (as well as accounts from Kevin Eggars and Guy Clark, among others), was that his labels were unsure of how to market Townes' albums - so they mucked 'em up in order to fit them better into a genre. It's a square block in a round hole trying to genre-fy Townes. He was, after all, a live performer who liked life on the road and always managed to wreck some part of his life as soon as one place got too permanent.

That's why The Green Album - as it's often called - remains one the true-est momentos of The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. Not only is his guitar work sharp as ever, but Townes was talkative and charming on this night. [By the way - if you've only heard a few TVZ songs here and there, you may be under the impression that, albeit an amazing poet, he was a lazy guitar player. Not the case - like i said, his hard-livin' began to take a toll on him later in his life, but in the first decade of Townes' career, he was admired as much for his intricate finger-picking (he carried a set of metal finger picks around in a purple-velvet Crown Royal bag) as he was his songwriting.]

Here's just one of the jokes Townes tells during song breaks:

"There was this drunk walkin' down the street. He walks up
to this cop and he says
'Man, somebody stole my car.'

The cop says 'Well, where was it?'

And he says 'It was right on the end of this key.'

The cop says 'Why don't you go down to the precinct and file a report?'

Guy says 'Okay' and he starts to walk off.

The cop says, 'Before you go downtown, you better zip up your fly.....'

The drunk says 'Aw, man. They got my girl, too.'"

If you're already a Townes Van Zandt fan - you MUST have this record....
If you're new to Townes - this is as good a place as ever to start......

[eMusic] Free 14-day trial with 35 mp3 downloads - FREE!
[Amazon] $23.98 hard copy/$11.49 mp3

mp3: Townes Van Zandt - Two Girls
mp3: Townes Van Zandt - Lungs

i'll probably be inspired to write another TVZ post when i finish up the book.


  1. "lemme see if i can play this one" townes says as he prepares to rip "lungs" without a hitch. one of the great moments of live music history (in my book, only rivaled by dylan screamin "play fuckin loud" on bootleg vol 4).

    side note, this album is a favorite of ole mike cooper

  2. a little modest to say the least...

    you might also throw in dylan's "i don't believe you" in response to

    have you seen 'other side of the mirror?'
    it chronicles dylan's transformation in the 3 years he attended the Newport Festival. Really good.

    i had no idea cooper was a hipster...

  3. i was watchin sam jones' wilco documentary "i am trying to break your heart" last w/e, at one point a girl in the audience says to tweedy (who was doin a solo show): "your lyrics are poetry" to which tweedy replied "i like you." so the list goes on...

    coop is an o.g. Loves the burrito bros. and anything done by jerry garcia (including the solo picking stuff). you tqwo would have more than a little to talk about

  4. i have to admit, i'm a newcomer to TVZ. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction to get it all started, p.

  5. I just randomly happened upon your blog and I love it. Thanks for the excellent music discussion.