Townes Van Zandt (studio album) by Townes Van Zandt
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Townes Van Zandt bestography
Townes Van Zandt is ranked as the best album by Townes Van Zandt.
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Townes Van Zandt track list
The tracks on this album have an average rating of 85 out of 100 (all tracks have been rated).
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This album is rated in the top 1% of all albums on BestEverAlbums.com. This album has a Bayesian average rating of 81.2/100, a mean average of 80.5/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 81.6/100. The standard deviation for this album is 14.1.
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A hidden gem for me at least. Beautiful songwriting.
Great country folk, he has beautiful voice.
Townes van Zandt's self-titled album, along with Mickey Newbury's "Looks Like Rain," is a masterpiece of the country folk genre.
While Newbury wrapped his candy melodies in dreamy studio sounds, Van Zandt presents himself acoustically, with the occasional drums, resonator guitar and harmonica. Van Zandt is front and center, with his guitar, his tender voice and his solemn songs.
Many of Van Zandt's early classics are here, including four new recordings taken from his debut album, which suffered from clunky, dated studio production.
Virtually unknown and alienated from mainstream success in his day, these recordings now fit comfortably in the Americana genre, which simply did not have a defined audience in his day. Had these recordings not been made, it would have been likely that his music would have remained in the coffee houses of Houston and in the fading memories of a generation of folk enthusiasts. Instead, his music has found an audience with new generations, who are looking for something that those early audiences were also seeking: honest, authentic country music, light on the twang and hearty on the heart.
All songs written by Townes van Zandt.
Career Highlight: Waiting Around to Die
Gems: Lungs, Miss Carousel
The first thing that stands out from a modern ear (2020) is that one imagines that very little sounded like this in 1969 and certainly not much on the pop charts. Van Zandt takes pieces of country, folk, and blues but without committing firmly to any of them. Townes exceptional finger picking style is immediately evident as is the strong narrative song writing. The vocals have a rich quality in their sound and the lyrical composition adds a great deal of personal introspection to what's being sung in the narrative-style lyrics. Because of the duality of the beautiful lyrics and the emotion in Van Zandt's voice, you are given enough space to process the words and paint a picture while the music is playing as a background piece. You can then go back to the album in a second listen and focus on the listen which is compelling in its own right.
Townes has a way with words that not many other artists have. While an artist like Dylan is acclaimed for his ability weave snide poetry into his music, Townes sets himself apart with his ability to paint beautiful pictures of people and scenery with his voice. In the ballads on this album, his voice and demeanor are extremely loving and comforting. "I'll be here in the Morning" is such an example. It's a song that your can sing to your daughter or your lover and it would have the same message, and the message of the song is conveyed so vividly.
After 3 or 4 tracks it feels like one of the best of the decade.
Okay, and here we are. His 3rd album, and his second of 1969. Townes output in 69 was better than anyone else. It was bonkers. And the production here is nearly perfect! Its so bare and breezy and simple and this gives TVZ's songs room to breathe, to float into your ears and heart and make you weep. The lyrics and the actual songs, THE SONGS!!!! are even better here than on Our Mother The Mountain. TVZ had really turned the corner in the intervening few months and turned on his next gear. To keep that sports analogy going just a bit more (I hear your groans, I'm sorry, just one second) This album represents the age 27 season of that star QB, when he is still putting up the big numbers, still scrambling aorund and showing off his gifts, still throwing it deep, but now he's throwing less interceptions, he's reading the game next level, and he goes to the championship! But he loses... and its not close. In this case cuz of a couple 30 somethings who just act as killjoys to his glory and poke holes in his schemes. But he moves onto the next season to regroup and hopefully break through. With Townes, he just continues honing his craft and makes 3 or 4 more classics and wins a couple championships.
Okay, and I am done with that. Thank gawd.
What I think is amazing about this Self titled Townes album is how effortless it feels. Right from the jump you are treated with one of the breeziest and subtly morunful and confused songwriting feats ever. "For The Sake of the Song" features a gorgeous guitar line from Townes (who much like Joni, is an underrated guitarist). There's a very subdued little bass line. Some pretty percussion. And over the top of this beautiful and again Breezy sound, Townes just seems to be talking to a friend about his predicament with a relationship. The internal rhyme pattern is detailed but not over the top. And you are just sitting there as the audience marvelling at how deeply thought out and intricate the observations are and how quickly the5+ minute song goes by.
And this is true of the whole album. You go through this subtle, shimmering, at times deeply emotional, at other times just comfortably familiar, journey with TVZ, and you enjoy every second being in its presence.
The songs here don't jump out at me. When I look at the tracklist for Our Mother The Mountain or his debut, or even Delta Momma Blues, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt or even High Low and In Between, I am struck by 3 or 4 absolute stand outs, totally memorable and singular Townes moments. With this album though, the whole album coalesces and plays just right, one song to the next, that I just know when I finish the album there is not a less than stellar track here, and I wanna push play again, and again.
That is probably due to just how warm and simple the production is. There are some more flashy parts, like the groove of the bass on "Waitin' Round To Die" (oh and I suppose this song does stick out on the tracklist, so there is a correction from last paragraph). But those more fl;ashy moments are rare, and they are all in beautiful service to the songs. They make sense. The harmonica and bass groove, so dark and ominous, absolutely pushes this song over the top. It seems like Townes and his producer at the time finally realized the earthy genius of Townes, and that you didn't need bells and whistles to make these songs move mountains. The lone voice and guitar and minimal other things alone can just overcome a listener. This album is proof of that.
Other examples of the extra ornamentation working beautfully here is the strangely timed bass drum rhythm on the stunning blues reimagining of "Lungs". And the gorgeous violin backing, and tambourine fun of "(Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria".
Songs like "Don't Take It Too Bad", "Colorado Girl", "None But The Rain", "I'll Be Here In the Morning" and "For The sake of the Song" seem to me like perfect examples of that distinctly Townes way of just being the most inviting, sensitive, singer/songwriter of the folk/country field.
Anyway, this album is damn near perfect. And if you wanna know where to get started with becoming a huge Townes fan, here it is your best bet methinks.
This album is proof that you can do a TVZ album without added stuff, and it proved that all by himself, Townes Can Zandt! (I'm sorry...)
"All the mountains and the rivers
And the valleys can't compare
To your blue lit dancin' eyes
And yellow shining hair
I could never hit the open road
And leave you layin' there
Lay your head back easy, love,
Close your cryin' eyes
I'll be layin' here beside you
When the sun comes on the rise
I'll stay as long as the cuckoo wails
And the lonesome blue jay cries" -Townes
These songs spill blood. They shed tears. Simple, unadorned. Often just vocals and a picking guitar, these songs dig deep into your soul. And bring out the loneliness and pain. The loneliness and heartbreak you thought you had buried. From that girl. From this life. There’s a romance to the loneliness of these songs. Of the love that had to end. Had to die.
Grade: A+. One of the greatest singer-songwriter albums of all time. The lyrics are second to none. But it’s the feeling of the songs that make it something special. Songs that make you reach for that whiskey jar to dull the pain and make you forget that special love you once had. Few albums bare your soul like this one, and it vaults all the way to number one.
A classic singer-songwriter, one of the best I've ever heard.
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