Townes Van Zandt – Townes Van Zandt (Poppy Rec./Tomato Rec. 1969)
Townes was born in a wealthy Texan family, but that’s as far as his luck would go. During his university years, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with shock therapy that erased his long term memory. His life soon became a story of alcoholism, drug abuse and emotional pain. In 1968, he seriously entered the music business in Nashville and started recording on Poppy Records.
Van Zandt was a living legend for many although not so successful in terms of sale (until Emmylou Harris covered If I Needed You and attracted the attention of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson on Townes’ work). The poet never embraced fortune and fame and lived in a trailer in Austin with his dog and wife, playing cards, guitar and drinking liquor.
His third eponymous album followed 1968′s For The Sake Of The Song and 1969′s Our Mother The Mountain. If we decided to add this particular record and not another, it’s because of one song above all. Previously recorded on his debut album, Waiting Around To Die is the gloomiest track on this record and a beautiful illustration to Van Zandt’s life and troubled mind. Referring to his substance abuse and depression, the song flows like a dark river, submerging the listener like depression must have flooded the writer.
The other songs on the album are all just as a beautiful. The sweet Colorado Girl is one of the poet’s souvenir song of his time spent in Boulder with his family as a teen (like many songs on his second album, Our Mother The Mountain), while Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel offers another high point on the album with its unforgettable melody. This half an hour long album is a rare moment of intense songwriting and engaging melodies even through the most painful verses.
A fine introduction to this doomed poet, a folk music treasure and a considerable influence for many artists who followed and will follow…that’s how we could quickly describe Townes Van Zandt self titled album. Now listen.