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“The Late Great Townes Van Zandt” – Townes Van Zandt (1972) [english]

There are artists in the history of music who in life never received the praise and recognition they deserved, some even after their departure were celebrated for the talent and importance they had. But there is one who did not suffer for this situation, on the contrary he was happy and now in heaven he will be smiling bitterly thinking that even today at 77 years from his birth, 34 years from his untimely death and 31 from his last record release (with him still alive) , some insiders and many fans consider it important, very important. Important for what his songs meant, his lyrics so evocative, melancholy and tragically premonitory in their own way. That one is Townes Van Zandt from Fort Worth, Texas. One that for lyrical and intellectual ability we can certainly and without being blasphemous, alongside the great Hank Williams and Bob Dylan. Townes was the son of Texas middle-class oil tankers, but the electric shock that struck him when he watched Elvis Presley’s concert on TV at the Ed Sullivan Show, It was such that his life changed forever and he became a kind of black sheep of his wealthy family and dedicated his life to music. That was the magnet that lured him without escape, not the money, not the success, but the expression he could give to himself by singing his songs, with a style that drew inspiration from the great Texan acoustic bluesmen like Lightning Hopkins, for which he opened some concerts at the beginning of his career, but also by the great folkmen like Dylan or his brotherly friend Guy Clark (Texan and underrated like him) or rocker with huge fame like the Rolling Stones. Where there was emotion and where there was existential melancholy, Townes found himself there and absorbed to create his own unique style that made numerous proselytes since his first album in 1968 (For The Sake of Song) until this 1972 The Late Great Townes Van Zandt which is considered his masterpiece. A jewel composed of 11 wonderful frescoes in music, dry music, a sad narrator’s voice, few acoustic guitars, some appearances of electric, violins and choirs. All this but a poignant and sparkling beauty. A life marked by an ugly disease to manage in public as it is to be a manic depressive, drugs mixed with alcohol and drugs and that feeling flaunted to the four winds of a life that would be short, death would soon reach him. He was not afraid of it, he almost wanted it and the title of this album of ’72 is there to remind us, as if it were a posthumous album of someone just disappeared. Townes resisted his sad and gloomy songs, almost without hope of finished loves and betrayals, his living in a house in Nashville for years without gas, electricity or heating, his love of weapons and his hatred of notoriety. When he returned near home, in Austin managers and promoters were looking for him, concerts in small clubs where if the evening was the right one gave unforgettable poems and unique stories, while if his mind left him remember scenes stolen at the end of his career by his great inspirer Elvis from Memphis, collapses and falls, like the one that then due to complications due to fractures and his addictions, led him to premature (and at this point desired) died on January 1, 1997. January 1st as the great Hank Williams with whom he shares the essential importance for country music. A record that is difficult to tell, like all his, but it must be savoured calmly, with brains and with the right soul, it is not easy to listen to the songs of Townes Van Zandt, but the good things are never easy. Acoustic guitar, scratchy and incisive as the opener No Lonesome Tune where the voice of Van Zandt speaks to us, does not sing does not look for easy harmonies but enters into that melancholy that became his trademark as in the subsequent Sad Cinderella, where the choirs increase this feeling that grips the soul. And almost to break a bit this heavy air comes the country rock veined with blues by German Mustard (A Clapalong), almost a bluesman song of the delta, of those that the founding fathers of the genre sang at the crossroads on dusty roads and in the middle of immense cotton fields. But that feeling does not go away and comes back with arrogance in the poignant ballad Snow Don’t Fall, which tells a love broken by the death of the beloved, a jewel that leads to tears, so sincere and without filters. Enriched by strings and an almost brilliant arrangement. A piece that should be the heritage of humanity and instead many, too many ignore. His colleagues who knew his greatness tried to remove him from the oblivion of the general public, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard took to the top of the charts one of his most beautiful pieces, the wonderful Pancho and Lefty. A western ballad of betrayal and friendship, simple and perfect. But this success did not touch Townes in the slightest, indeed probably knowing him even bothered him. He lived with his head so mangled by the voices he heard, by the medications they tried in every way to heal him but did not destroy his poetry, your talent. Listen to If I Needed You and tell me it’s not one of the most intense love songs you’ve ever heard? But it took Don Williams and Emmylou Harris to turn it into a chart single nine years later. I repeat it is a difficult record, complicated to assimilate (like all his discography) but take some time, taste it, feel on the palate that bitter taste of melancholy, weep his tears and smile with narrow teeth in the most sunny songs. A wonderful record, simple, dry without frills, without glitter, of a disarming sincerity, a real record, poetic and dramatic as all the life of this man, devoured by himself, by the life he had chosen and by his demons. His brotherly friend Guy Clark, called him the greatest American singer-songwriter ever, we do not know if he was so certainly was one of the greatest and this without a doubt, the most underrated. Every quality music lover and songwriter should know it and if you don’t know it now is the time to make up for it and this is the record that will sparkle before your eyes the tormented soul of a unique and unattainable artist, the Late Great Townes Van Zandt.

Good listening,

Trex Willer by http://www.magazzininesistenti.it

you can find original italian article at this link : http://www.magazzininesistenti.it/townes-van-zandt-the-late-great-townes-van-zandt-1972-di-claudio-trezzani/ )

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