Townes Van Zandt “In The Beginning”

In The Beginning is a collection of early songs from Townes Van Zandt — all originals — that were recorded in Nashville by Mickey Newbury;  the hippie-cowboy who wrote “Sweet Memories” and “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”. The recordings were made in 1966, two years before TVZ recorded and released For The Sake Of The Song, his debut record. They happen to be the the earliest recordings of TVZ we know of.

Eight of the ten songs on the album feature a solo Townes fingerpicking his acoustic guitar and dropping lyrical gems with his gentle southern twang. Herein lie the seeds of the now legendary songwriter.  A few songs from this collection were later reworked and placed on proper albums, but it is the grit and raw honesty that makes these performances so endearing.

The first song, “Black Widow Blues”, features a full band steam-rolling straight ahead, with echos of electric Dylan complimented by TVZ’s Texas drawl and outlaw lyrics. The solo performances on the album, such as “Maryetta’s Song” and “Waiting For The Day”, display his uncanny ability to present sadness with an understanding lonesome spirit.

In The Beginning is a surprisingly good sounding record too, and, for all but two, the songs are stripped down to the basic elements, without any unnecessary production to get in the way. These songs were intended to be “demos” and recorded as a way for the young TVZ to spread his wings wider than the Houston scene (he eventually relocated to Nashville). This Fat Possum pressing is well done, arriving without any noticeable flaws and with little surface noise to cloud the intimacy.

Apparently, Jeanene Van Zandt and “Cowboy” Jack Clement rediscovered the original tapes after they went missing for many years, leading to a CD release in 2003. This Fat Possum reissue [FP1206] puts these songs on LP for the very first time.

 

 

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