Townes Van Zandt played to a standing room-only crowd in Nashville on April 19, 1985, when he recorded Live & Obscure at 12th and Porter. The show was billed as "the return of the lost sheep of the songwriting fold." The rambling Texas troubadour did not disappoint his fans, peers, and colleagues that night (or any other). In this intimate setting, Van Zandt's aw-shucks charm comes through not just his songs, but his in-between banter. Luckily, he failed to heed his mother's advice to not talk, just play and sing. Another beauty that appears in a raw setting such as this is of the songs themselves. No one will argue that a stunning performance by a great singer can make any song seem transcendent. That phenomenon has certainly played a part in Van Zandt's career. But when the author stands on-stage with little musical support to deliver the goods in their truest, original form and they still shine, well that's what separates the men from the boys. That's the moment when legends are made or broken. For Van Zandt was certainly no great singer, but his songs were no less transcendent when sailing on his voice. Though Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard made some of these tunes famous, it was Van Zandt that gave them life.
AllMusic Review by Kelly McCartney