We’re always making value judgements, and we do it at lightning speed. I like this, I don’t care for that, that’s ok, oh no, not that. We do it about art and music and literature and everything else. I’m OK with that. For instance with music, I listen to a broad range of material, some of it very disparate. I don’t listen to everything though and I know there are some things I don’t give half a chance. Oh well.
I was on a roadtrip once with East Texas Red. We were out west somewhere chasing trout and at this particular moment we were having mediocre pizza with bottomless Coca Cola at some roadside joint and we were talking about music. East Texas Red asked me what made Townes van Zandt such a great song writer. Why did I admire his tunes so much? Fair question.
The first Townes van Zandt record I had was Live and Obscure. It was on vinyl. Remember vinyl? I played that record until it was scratched and it skipped. It seemed like Townes carried all the worries of the world on his shoulders. He sang terribly sad songs and he brought out every ounce of melancholy and hopelessness. He must have been one troubled guy.
I didn’t say that to East Texas Red though. At the time I didn’t really have an answer to his question beyond, “because his songs are really good.” This was quite a few years ago. Since then I’ve listened to those Townes van Zandt tunes hundreds of times. If East Texas Red asked me the question now in the fullness of time, I’d say, “because you can listen to them over and over and over for years and years and never get tired of them. That’s saying something. I get tired of most songs I hear on the radio really quickly.
Here’s Townes van Zandt performing Tecumseh Valley with Nanci Griffith…