Unlike other musical icons who left us too soon, there's been only a trickle of releases from the Townes Van Zandt estate since the Fort Worth-born singer-songwriter passed away on Jan. 1, 1997. Sunshine Boy, subtitled The Unheard Studio Sessions & Demos 1971–1972, rectifies the situation somewhat, not that what he recorded in his 52 years isn't enough. Nevertheless, listening to this 2-CD set is a bittersweet reminder of just how much Van Zandt, the poet, the bluesman, remains missed. The first disc contains 16 studio tracks recorded around the time of his High, Low & In Between and The Late Great Townes Van Zandt albums. The second disc compiles solo demo recordings. Between the two, most of his best tunes are here. He's at the peak of his powers on "Pancho & Lefty," "To Live Is to Fly," "White Freight Liner Blues," "Two Hands," and his doleful cover of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers." Yet previously unheard tunes like the sinister sounding title track and the Lightnin' Hopkins rip "Diamond Heel Blues" add to the set's value. Hank Williams' biographer Colin Escott offers exceptionally insightful liner notes, which are accompanied by previously unseen photos from the time of the recordings. Overall, Sunshine Boy delivers a stirring reminder of Townes Van Zandt's genius, as if we could ever forget.
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