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For the Townes van Zandt fans


Lars68

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Found this online. It's a very tough, and very sad, listen, due to the shape Townes is in, and knowing his fate just a few days later. Even though the performances are rough, the songs are good, especially Harm's Swift Way, which I find undeniably great. I also think the guitar sounds superb, guess it's his blond J-200...

 

 

(you see some details about the session, and a track list, if you click "show more" below the description in the link).

 

Lars

 

By the way, if you want to skip the most hard to listen to stuff, here is a link to only Harm's Swift Way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7x2QJzRhBA

 

and here is the same song in a very sober version by Robert Plant from Swedish Television.

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Thanks for posting that, although portions are painful to listen to. We all know the genius behind the songs, but his demons just would not let go. Then again, those same demons probably fueled part of the genius.

 

I've often said that most of us folkies spend our time trying to rewrite two songs -- Townes' "Pancho and Lefty" and James Keelaghan's "Cold Missouri Waters."

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This is vital stuff Lars, thankyou!

 

I know after No Deeper Blue Townes spoke about making a "Sky songs" record of improvised stuff. A lot of this sounds very embryonic, I wonder whether this was a session with that approach in mind?

 

It's difficult to hear Townes so clearly barely there, but even in his utmost dereliction there is poetry.

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I've considered deeply on the matter, especially in relation to Townes. I tend to believe, based on things I know about his personality and lifestyle, that an incapacity for self delusion leads to a great capacity for self destruction.

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I often ponder why it might be that creative types are so often self-destructive. History of the arts is littered with geniuses that were hell bent on dying young. It seems in many cases that the price of creative insight is pain and self-abuse. WTF?

 

I have given this some thought myself, and my conclusion is that it has to do with sensitivity. Sensitive people "feel" the world around them much more easily, and hence, can write about it with better insight, while at the same time, lacking the needed armor to protect against it.

 

Lars

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Thanks for posting. I was not aware of Harm's Swift Way. I am really not that fond of the lyric but the Robert Plant track I heard, which sounds like the studio version, I really love the track --

 

It was a bonus to have dhanners623 mention James Keelaghan's "Cold Missouri Waters." Holy cow, have never heard of this man, nor the song. Fantastic!

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I've considered deeply on the matter, especially in relation to Townes. I tend to believe, based on things I know about his personality and lifestyle, that an incapacity for self delusion leads to a great capacity for self destruction.

 

I absolutely agree with this, OC. For people like Townes, the Nietzsche quote about staring into the void and the void staring back into you seems to be especially valid.

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Artists from all genres. Hemingway, Van Gogh, too many rockers... I've thought it was best described in that song "Vincent" by Don McLean. "this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."The beauty and the ugliness of "life" can be overwhelming if you are unable to filter it out.

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Great share, Lars--thanks!

 

So psyched to hear him do Harm's Swift Way, which I first heard on Robert Plant's "Band of Joy" album. I went to the BOJ concert, and I think it was there I heard the story of HSW, which was that Towne's widow gave the studio cut to Plant when he and Alison Krauss were touring their album. Plant didn't know quite what to do with the dirge-like HSW, but... later, Buddy Miller did. They said Miller gave it an "east coast" drive, which is what you hear on the BOJ version.

 

I loved this song, first time I heard it, mesmerized completely by the lyrics. And after immersing myself in them for a bit, I came to find BOJ's version to be a tad too jaunty. Ever since, I have been working out my "somewhere in between" version. Here is one of my very first stabs, recorded several years ago now.

 

Harm's Swift Way

 

Learning/adopting/performing TVZ's songs is a special challenge--maybe like Mt. Everest to a climber--but I am drawn to some of them in a way that's hard to explain. Not Pancho and Lefty or If I Needed You and such, but HSW, Tecumseh Valley, Snowing on Raton... can't get enough of those.

 

Anyway, this is an awesome discovery, not for great performance, but for a glimpse into those last days.

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Yep, that's me again. Sigh. Lars what is the name of that first song he is trying to put down? So since I know nothing about the late Mr. Van Zandt what CDs should I look for?

 

To me, his album Live at the Old Quarter is his greatest recorded work. I tend to like his live acoustic stuff the best. I find it so much more raw and emotional, than the produced studio albums.

 

Another great, late, live album is Absolutely Nothing. Here is the song Marie from that album.

 

Of the studio albums I think my favorites are The Late Great Townes van Zandt, and A Far Cry From Dead (where Nashville studio pros add accompaniment after his passing).

 

I live a very normal, ordinary, family life, and have nothing in common with the troubled Townes, but there is something in his voice/lyrics/melodies that speak directly to my soul. I have spent the last couple of years, since I first heared the Old Quarter album, digging up all of his obscure live albums (which you can find cheap on ebay). He was an artist that didn't care about the business side of music or money, and his work never had great distribution, so finding his stuff can be a little challenging but it is worth seeking out.

 

Lars

 

Oh, Anne, your recording is beautiful. I also like to remind everybody that our very own, Jinder, has recorded a simply outstanding album with Townes songs, which can be found on Spotify et all.

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Thanks for posting. I was not aware of Harm's Swift Way. I am really not that fond of the lyric but the Robert Plant track I heard, which sounds like the studio version, I really love the track --

 

It was a bonus to have dhanners623 mention James Keelaghan's "Cold Missouri Waters." Holy cow, have never heard of this man, nor the song. Fantastic!

 

Got excited at the reviews of this man and the song

I didn't like it one bit

 

What am I missing ?

Is like a news report that rhymes

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Great share, Lars--thanks!

 

So psyched to hear him do Harm's Swift Way, which I first heard on Robert Plant's "Band of Joy" album. I went to the BOJ concert, and I think it was there I heard the story of HSW, which was that Towne's widow gave the studio cut to Plant when he and Alison Krauss were touring their album. Plant didn't know quite what to do with the dirge-like HSW, but... later, Buddy Miller did. They said Miller gave it an "east coast" drive, which is what you hear on the BOJ version.

 

I loved this song, first time I heard it, mesmerized completely by the lyrics. And after immersing myself in them for a bit, I came to find BOJ's version to be a tad too jaunty. Ever since, I have been working out my "somewhere in between" version. Here is one of my very first stabs, recorded several years ago now.

 

Harm's Swift Way

 

Learning/adopting/performing TVZ's songs is a special challenge--maybe like Mt. Everest to a climber--but I am drawn to some of them in a way that's hard to explain. Not Pancho and Lefty or If I Needed You and such, but HSW, Tecumseh Valley, Snowing on Raton... can't get enough of those.

 

Anyway, this is an awesome discovery, not for great performance, but for a glimpse into those last days.

 

I thought you did a great job on it and it helped me appreciate the song even more.

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Got excited at the reviews of this man and the song

I didn't like it one bit

 

What am I missing ?

Is like a news report that rhymes

 

Is it the voice, phrasing, lyrics that don't connect? I admit I didn't see it at first as well. It reminded me of when I first got into the poetry of Charles Bukowski. It was about whores, drunks, thieves, and depravity. I found it gritty and grotesque but as I read more I began to recognize his style and I was captivated by the power of his writing.

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I also like to remind everybody that our very own, Jinder, has recorded a simply outstanding album with Townes songs, which can be found on Spotify et all.

 

Thanks for the mention, Lars. Playing Townes' songs can be a bit like trying to catch a feather in the breeze using a digger scoop, I tried to impose my style as lightly as possible on the songs I recorded, I considered recording the album entirely acapella, but there are so many beautiful changes in his songs that I couldn't resist playing on it too. I just tried to keep the guitar as ghost-like and simple as possible. I recorded the whole album in the dark to prevent any straying into fancy playing!

 

Anne, everything you record is wonderful and your version of HSW is no exception. Superb stuff!

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That was great Anne

 

Didn't like the Townes version.

Not the Robert plant

 

Yours was great

Thanks all; that's closer to how I hear it, but I haven't revisited it in a while. I will see how I might update this.

 

But think of it---here we have the bones of a Townes tune that few have covered, just sitting there for us to have a try at (if the lyric moves you and you can feel your way to how the music should wrap around it, just so).

 

We have some fine song interpreters here- no reason not to chew on this if you're drawn. A rare chance to be among the first to cover a TVZ original AND to almost assuredly do it better than he was ever heard to.

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Is it the voice, phrasing, lyrics that don't connect? I admit I didn't see it at first as well. It reminded me of when I first got into the poetry of Charles Bukowski. It was about whores, drunks, thieves, and depravity. I found it gritty and grotesque but as I read more I began to recognize his style and I was captivated by the power of his writing.

Given that Stu clarified he was referring to Cold Missouri Waters, I'm thinking he has no connection issues with Townes, generally...

But as for CMW, I do like Richard Shindell's (sp?) performance of it quite alot. Like other folk songs, it lives or dies in the telling of it. I've never had the urge to tell it myself, though... it is kind of narrative-heavy and could've been more interesting if it had been more colored by the prism of our hero's memory.

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Given that Stu clarified he was referring to Cold Missouri Waters, I'm thinking he has no connection issues with Townes, generally...

But as for CMW, I do like Richard Shindell's (sp?) performance of it quite alot. Like other folk songs, it lives or dies in the telling of it. I've never had the urge to tell it myself, though... it is kind of narrative-heavy and could've been more interesting if it had been more colored by the prism of our hero's memory.

 

Thanks Anne

Read my mind

 

Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald bores me too

Although its melody is much better than cold Missouri waters

I only commented on the song due to 'everyone is trying to write pancho and lefty (which is fantastic) or cold Missouri waters (which is ... well , shite really)

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As I said above, I prefer the live recordings of Townes. It really is a shame that so many of them are now out of print and not available from the streaming services. I forgot to meantion that the out of print and very hard to find album, A Gentle Evening with Townes van Zandt (recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1969), is a great companion to Live at the Old Quarter.

 

Here is a sample from that album with one of my favorite TvZ songs, Rake.

 

I think that it is the obviously autobiographical nature of his songs that causes them to hit me so hard. I remember hearing an interview when he said that all songs are not literally autobiographical, but every single one is emotionally autobiographical. I believe that is true.

 

I'd also like to say that it is music like the kind made by Anne, Jinder, Buc, bbg, Sal, and so many others around the forum, that help me keep going with my own mediocre stuff. To one day be able to do something, even remotely, close to what you guys can do is a big dream of mine.

 

Lars

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