Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The country rambler

Once seen on graffiti, ‘Listening to the blues turns being in pain into a beautiful feeling’, spray of right on it is.

Since I started the blog I've been putting up lots of blues, one might notice. I reckon it says enough about my emotional posture at this moment in time, the year 2006 notwithstanding the things that have happened on a level of hurt and shame all year around. Such is life, would a friend always say. I do promise to include more world music, roots and experimental stuff in the near future when clouds clear up in a hopefull hurry.

Talk talk talk.... Townes van Zandt in the blogged ode grinder. I've never been fond of white country music like the modern trash pulp it is today since the bad musicians outnumber the special ones like Gillian Welch and such. I guess I'm more of the pre 60's wave of Guthrie, Cash, (Hank) Williams and mostly the old timey stuff of the pre 40's. So then, what's up with Townes? To sum it up in a bizarre stretch; Dutch ancestry and raised in a Texas hotbed through oil, being pushed for governorship by his wealthy family, but starting a career in songwriting instead, brilliant lyrics during manic depressions and shock therapies, living as a hermit in a trashy cabin yet being member of the high-intelligence MENSA organisation. You wha'? It's one opposite revelation after the other, the context telling the story of his life in turnaround paths.
In a time that blues became smudgy electric and dirty, Townes' kept things acoustic and followed old blues paths merged with country styles. He noticably was influenced by many black blues musicians such as Lightnin' Hopkins who also hailed from Texas and imbedded their style his own way. One could even say that Townes has inspired an early alt-country movement since he was more focussed on fingerpicking than the simple playing styles of those days. His music has inspired the likes of Sonic Youth, Beck, The White Stripes, Tindersticks and even Norah Jones to name a few. I'm still trying to track down 'Heartworn Highways' and 'Be Here To Love Me', both being lauded movies about his life and music; the genius, the alcohol, the demise. Taking a drive on the internet highway needed.

While his intense lyrics contained a lot of smart dry humour, there is also a lot of mention of alcohol abuse by other people, while he himself was a notorious alcoholic all his life as his only grip on reality. He died of a heart attack in 1997 from a bad bloodclot after a hip surgery. This was on the same day as the death of his idol Hank Williams, weirdly enough.

Here some songs taken from the infamous Live At The Quarter House session performed in Houston, 1977. These 3 are all blues covers from artists before the 60's

Townes van Zandt - If I Needed You (Doc Watson cover)
Townes van Zandt - Nine Pound Hammer (Merle Travis cover)
Townes van Zandt - Cocaine Blues (from the original by Luke Jordan, no Clapton ruining it here)

This one is another little gem of that session, the way he makes fun of fraternity houses and the upper class jock-style social life is priceless:
Townes van Zandt - Fraternity Blues

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