Townes Van Zandt

The Very Best of Townes Van Zandt: The Texan Troubadour

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While there has been a real glut of Townes Van Zandt "greatest-hits" collections of late, The Texan Troubadour relies heavily on his story-songs, recounting tales of drunken hoboes and ill-fated outlaws mixed in with his Dylan-esque love songs. The chronological format works well, and it is fascinating to listen as he really comes into his own on the second disc, abandoning the bizarre orchestration and incongruous string sections of his early recordings and relying more heavily on his gentle voice and appropriately sparse accompaniment. The one thing that becomes evident is how bone-crushingly depressing most of these tunes are, especially combined with the knowledge of his troubled later life and untimely death at the age of 52. Still, there are flickers of hope in these modern tragedies, leaving the listener with the faint but clear hope of the human spirit surviving all of the broken hearts and empty bottles that Van Zandt can hand out. This collection is unfortunately missing some of his really great recordings like "Tower Song," "You Are Not Needed Now," and (unforgivably) his cover of "Dead Flowers," but what fun would a best-of compilation be if there were nothing for music geeks and scholars to debate?

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