Thursday, June 2, 2011

Underrated Classic - Townes Van Zandt - "Live at the Old Quarter"

Townes Van Zandt, Live at the Old Quarter
By Raf Richardson-Carillo*

In all likelihood, the only thing you know Townes Van Zandt for is his cover of
the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers,” which plays over the closing credits of The
Big Lebowski. You might not even have known that was him, and that’s perfectly
understandable. Outside of a small circle of prominent country musicians that
includes Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle, and Guy Clark, Van Zandt is virtually
unknown. Inside that circle, however, he is a demigod. Earle once called Van
Zandt “the best songwriter in the whole world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee
table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Upon hearing this, Van Zandt, ever the
shirker of fame and bloated statements, said, “I’ve met Bob Dylan, and I don’t think
Steve Earle could get past his security.”

You should not listen to Live at the Old Quarter if you want to hear flawless, highly
produced music. You should listen to this album if you want to hear thoughtful,
highly personal songs played in their simplest forms. It is just a man and his guitar,
strumming and singing over the sounds of beer mugs and audience hoots in a small
club in Texas. It is poignant, funny, sad, and above all imperfect. In an age when
anybody can sit down in front of their MacBook and make a polished album using
the GarageBand feature, it is worth it once in a while to hear something flawed,
something that reminds us of our shared quality, our humanity.

*Raf Richardson- Carillo is a contributing write for Officially A Yuppie. This is his first article.