Townes Van Zandt

Buckskin Stallion

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There's no arguing that Townes Van Zandt was one of the best songwriters (perhaps the best) to emerge from the remarkably fertile Texas singer/songwriter community in the 1960s and '70s, and while he didn't always get the sympathetic production he deserved on his studio recordings, his honest, warm, and gently weathered voice communicated his expertly drawn stories as well as anyone who ever sang them (and when the folks covering your material include Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, and Nanci Griffith, that says a great deal). But while Townes Van Zandt is a major artist by anyone's standards, his catalog is something of a mess, bloated with posthumous live releases, collections of outtakes, and compilations that recycle the same early material over and over. Buckskin Stallion falls squarely into the latter category; this double-CD set collects 36 tunes from Van Zandt's early material recorded for the Poppy and Tomato labels, which have already been collected on two-disc anthologies from Varese, Charly, and Metro. The music here is consistently wonderful, and no one who loves great songwriting should be without recordings of "Rex's Blues," "She Came and She Touched Me," "Highway Kind," "Nothin'," and "Tecumseh," among many others. But this set has been compiled without any appreciable rhyme or reason, the audio isn't always as clear as it should be, the packaging is unattractive, and the liner notes are not especially informative, useful, or even accurate. Buckskin Stallion demonstrates the dire need for a comprehensive and well-curated Townes Van Zandt box set that would make sense of his extraordinary body of work; this package presents some remarkable material in a cheap and shoddy fashion, even though the brilliance of Van Zandt's music still manages to shine through.

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