Townes Van Zandt: Down Home and Abroad review – Double the classics

Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 07:45

   
 

Album:
Down Home and Abroad

Artist:
Townes Van Zandt

Label:
Floating World

Genre:
Singer / Songwriter

It’s always good to ring in the new year with an old friend. And Townes Van Zandt and I go back way too many years.

When I first heard his classic album, Our Mother the Mountain, back in 1969 I was smitten for life. TVZ’s songs trawl the dark side of the human condition and colour that world with poetic flair and tunes seeped in country and blues.

This double album finds TVZ live in 1985 at a small gig in Johnson City, Tennessee, and then eight years later playing in Helsinki. Within four years this troubled man would be dead at 52 from a heart attack brought on by his fondness for drink and drugs.

The Johnson City set at the Down Home is undoubtedly more accomplished, his voice sounds assured and his performance is full of quirky personality – he wryly introduces Pancho and Lefty as a “medley of his hit”.

The Helsinki show is more poignant, a portrait of a performer on the downslide but politely grateful for the warm reception for his cracked voice and luminous songs. Yet he is still able to reach into himself for a rivetting version of his epic ballad Tecumseh Valley. A voice like no other.