Townes Van Zandt
The Warner Bros. Years (Shout! Factory)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Aug. 16, 2013
Townes Van ZandtHigh, Low and In Between (Omnivore)
Townes Van ZandtThe Late Great Townes Van Zandt (Omnivore)
By some counts, these two albums, released months apart in 1972 and 1973, have now been reissued at least thrice. Capitol Records even combined them onto a single CD in 1996. One reason for the continued attention: They contain some of Van Zandt's finest songwriting and, as a result, his most covered songs. Besides the original versions of "Pancho & Lefty," "To Live Is to Fly," "If I Needed You," "Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold," "Two Hands," "No Deal," and "No Lonesome Tune," the late Austin songwriting icon (1944-1997) offers up rugged renditions of songs by Hank Williams and Guy Clark, as well as a warm, yet wrinkled version of Lawton Williams' country standard "Fräulein." With no bonus tracks, the hook this time reaches for the renewed interest in vinyl, as they're available in that format for the first time in decades. For many, The Late Great, his sixth studio effort, remains Van Zandt's masterpiece. Forty years out, it still stands the test of time, even if the story of "Pancho & Lefty" remains enigmatic. Noted music writer Colin Escott offers up new liner notes to each collection, filled with anecdotes about the songs that further illuminate some of the foremost folk and country music of the last century.