The Songs of Townes Van Zandt
Steve Von Till, Scott Kelly, and Wino
Written By Ian Gerber for The Soda Shop
From the beginning of my foray into writing for The Soda Shop I have had a compulsion to try and point out the kinship of various artists and singer-songwriters with our modern “doom” and “stoner” scenes. Conveniently, three monolithic figures of the scene have made a record that brings this idea directly to the table with the new tribute to Townes Van Zandt to be released on Neurot Records.
Townes Van Zandt is one of music’s most interesting characters. He is a character that is easy to relate to but impossible to pin down on what it is that makes his music so poignantly timeless. For as successful as he became, most notably the song “Pancho and Lefty” made famous by Willie Nelson, he lived in obscurity and lead a meager existence. Any modern ‘alt country’ act owes them a chunk of their sound. His dark tales of addiction and pain make for an excellent trip into the void of depression. Townes makes Kurt Cobain look like a happy soul. The raw honesty that his music conveys is a roadmap through one of the darkest psyches to record music. For anyone who is as captivated by this record as I am, I highly suggest watching “Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt”. It is not a happy movie to watch, but I bet that the average “doom” fan can handle it.
Steve Von Till, Scott Kelley, and Wino have done selections from his catalog that exhibit the beautiful gloom that is the world of Townes Van Zandt. While they stick closely to the songs acoustic roots, there is plenty of atmosphere in the record. The sparse instrumentation lets these men translate the longing tone that anyone who has felt the weight of the world can recognize in a Townes Van Zandt song. After listening to this record there should be no argument to the fact that “doom” isn’t just for describing incredibly loud guitars tuned to subsonic level and played at a crawling tempo. Doom and heavy are feelings that cross the limitations of categorization and genres. It is purely The Blues, nothing more and nothing less.
This record is really strong. The weight of the material is focused and evenly distributed across the entire listening experience. Full of reverence for the songwriter’s craft, the stories tell of hookers and losers, addicts and junkies, drunks and the downtrodden. I highly suggest it to anyone who is familiar with Townes’ music. These guys take everything they do really serious, as a rule. This album is no exception. The album will be available on June 12, 2012.