Early Van Zandt Unearthed - Rolling Stone
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Early Van Zandt Unearthed

First recordings by Texas songwriter due in April

The earliest known recordings by late Texas songwriting legend
Townes Van Zandt have been unearthed and will be released as In
the Beginning
by Compadre Records on April 22nd.

The ten-song collection features demos recorded by Van Zandt in
1966 after fellow Texas songwriter Mickey Newbury urged him to move
from the club circuit in Houston to Nashville. The songs on
Beginning were recorded two years before the release of
his first album, For the Sake of the Song (later retitled
First Album). The songs, which feature Van Zandt both
unaccompanied and backed by a band, were thought to be lost for
years. His widow, Jeanene Van Zandt, said that he told her about
the recordings, and while she had lyrics for the songs, the tapes
weren’t found until recently by Jack Clement, his first publisher
and old friend.

The recordings capture Van Zandt just two years after he quit
college to pursue what would become a romanticized thirty-year
career as a hard-living, rambling, gambling poet and songwriter.
Van Zandt died of a heart attack in 1997. His stark yet beautiful
songs have made him a cult favorite in the Seventies and inspired
his own and the subsequent generation of songwriters — from
country rock maverick Steve Earle to Emmylou Harris (who had a hit
cover of Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You”) to the Cowboy Junkies, who
toured with Van Zandt in the early Nineties.

“He influenced everything I do,” Earle said last year. “Anytime
I’m playing an acoustic guitar, it’s real obvious how those he
influenced my playing and my approach to songwriting and
performing. Those guys made a huge imprint there, and I’ll never
escape it, and I don’t really want to.”

According to Junkies’ guitarist/songwriter Michael Timmons, the
band has been toying with the idea of covering an entire album of
his songs. “The songs are so powerful lyrically that you can do
them in a lot of different ways,” he says. “The hard part is that
there’s so many songs to choose from with Townes. His ballads are

While Van Zandt would occasionally recycle music in the late
Sixties and early Seventies, recording songs in different formats
for different albums, the ten songs on In the Beginning
are largely represented for the first time on this collection, save
“Waitin’ for the Day,” which appeared in a different format on an
import-only Van Zandt box set.

In other Van Zandt news, reissues of four of his late
Sixties/early Seventies recordings for Tomato Records — 1968’s
For the Sake of the Song/First Album, 1969’s Our
Mother the Mountain
, 1971’s Delta Momma Blues and
1978’s Flyin’ Shoes — are due later this winter.

Track listing for In the Beginning:

Black Widow Blues
Maryetta’s Song
Hunger Child Blues
Gypsy Friday
Waitin’ for the Day
Black Jack Mama
When Your Dream Lovers Die
Colorado Bound
Big Country Blues
Black Crow Blues


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