Sky Blue is a collection of previously unreleased acoustic songs by legendary American singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt. He made the recordings in 1973 and they are released to celebrate what would have been his 75th birthday. The album contains early workouts of classics such as 'Poncho & Lefty' and 'Silver Ships of Andalar'.
Vinyl LP £18.49 FP17061
Black vinyl LP on Fat Possum. Comes in a gatefold sleeve.
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CD £11.49 FP17062
CD on Fat Possum.
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Limited Vinyl LP £18.49 FP17063
Limited edition, indies only sky blue coloured vinyl LP on Fat Possum. Comes in a gatefold sleeve.
“Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that”, so said Steve Earle about his mentor. It’s a bold, if a little brash, testament to a songwriter who on his day, could out-write any songwriter in America.
Sky Blue is a collection of unreleased recordings that the singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt made in early 1973. Combining early versions of favourites like ‘Poncho and Lefty’ and ‘Rex’s Blues’, as well as some scintillating new recordings like ‘All I Need’, this album displays van Zandt at his best. ‘All I Need’ in particular is fast becoming a favourite Van Zandt song. He sings of how ‘my chains keep playing tricks on me, and all I need is a place to lay ‘em down’. Van Zandt was famously frugal, living without electricity or water in a Nashville shack for many years. He lived the life that many see as the epitome of country music, a life of seedy motels, liquor-habits, and travel. He’s part of a long American country tradition that includes such luminaries as John Prine and Blaze Foley. A real troubadour, he lived through decades of drink and substance abuse, his long-term memory was almost gone after shock-therapy, and he was diagnosed with bipolar. You can hear hints of this lifestyle in the recordings but they are only hints, the songs always take precedence. There are some slightly cracked, fractured high notes on ‘Rex’s Blues’ and the lyrics hint at some distant submerged frailty, but for the most part Van Zandt never lets his music become self-centred. His voice sounds beautiful on these recordings, warm, mellifluous, and always note-perfect. His guitar playing is also wonderful, with passages of finger-picking and suspended chords.
Sky Blue is the perfect medium for Townes. Too often is country music buffed and polished, it sounds best when it’s raw and as minimal as possible. The recordings were made in a home studio owned by Bill Hedgepeth, a friend of Van Zandt’s, and what they lack in fidelity forms part of the charm and magic of the album. The restriction of a small home studio allows the peripheral and the superfluous to be filtered out, until you are left with raw, unadulterated Townes which is a draught to drink deeply from. The label Sky Blue is being released through, Fat Possum, have described this album as a ‘time capsule’, and there’s no better way of describing it. It’s a moment in the life of one of America’s finest sons.
8/10 Richard 2nd May 2019
This is the first, and so far only, Townes Van Zandt record I've heard. I'm not sure how representative of his other work this, as it's a collection of tracks from 1973 that are acoustic singer-songwriter type stuff. One thing I love about this is the way the LP has been recorded. Tracks like 'Hills Of Roane County' sound pretty muffled in a lovely warm way, but the beauty shines through, even if, in this case, it's a bluegrass murder ballad. The guitar playing on tracks like 'Snake Song' hint at the work of John Fahey, though less intricate. There are also elements of Bob Dylan here too ('The Last Thing On My Mind'), and if you like the stripped back sounds of Will Oldham, or the recent Damian Jurado LP 'In The Shape Of A Storm' on Loose, you should find plenty here to your liking. Really very good.
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