Townes Van Zandt

Legend: The Very Best of Townes Van Zant

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This two-disc collection from the British label Charly provides a generous sample of some of Townes Van Zandt's best work with the independent labels Poppy and Tomato, both owned and run by Kevin Eggers. All the classic Van Zandt songs are here, including "If I Needed You," "Pancho and Lefty," "Kathleen," "St. John the Gambler," and "Tecumseh," along with well-chosen duets with such artists as Willie Nelson, Freddy Fender, Emmylou Harris, Kimmie Rhodes, Doug Sahm, and Kathy Mattea, plus a handful of live tracks. Van Zandt re-recorded his songs on many occasions, often in a live setting, and a clearer sense of his uniquely delicate and desperate vision is probably best provided on one of his live albums, although only by degree, since the tragic romantic isolationism at the center of all of his songs always leads down the same road. Imagine Hank Williams writing with the precision of a haiku, and then imagine Williams writing Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, then imagine him taking it on the road with just an acoustic guitar. In the end, it doesn't matter which version of these songs you own. They all tell the same tragic story, with the same sad detachment, complete with the same demons, and they are all somehow necessary.

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