Sunday, January 21, 2007

Townes Van Zandt Homage

Last Thursday, Hervé Oudet and his friends from Acoustic In Paris once again offered to lovers of alternative country a wonderful evening of music at La Pomme d’Eve. This time the idea was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the death of Townes Van Zandt (January 1, 1997). For that occasion Richard Dobson and Terry Lee Hale, two other Texans, were invited to play songs of Townes. Ian Kent and the Immigrants were also on the same bill and offered two covers from this great songwriter who died on the same day as his idol Hank Williams.
Terry Lee Hale who did that night an amazing rendition of Snake Song gently agreed to share with me his thoughts about Townes Van Zandt during a short interview.

Leaky Sparrow: You have been invited this evening to celebrate Townes Van Zandt. Did you actually get to meet him or seen him play?

Terry Lee Hale: I was lucky enough to have met and got to know Townes Van Zandt a little bit. I saw him play maybe 15-20 times over the years. The best show I ever saw was a combination bill with Townes, Guy Clark and Mickey Newbury, wonderful songwriters all of them. That evening they were taking turns, each singing one song and then sitting back down while someone else got up. Townes was in great form this night as well he would have had to be. (Imagine standing on the stage with any 2 of those songwriters and then having to stand up and sing one of yours?). I do remember after Townes singing one of his songs that it was then Guy Clark turn. Well, Guy came up to the microphone, slowly shaking his head and he looked at the audience and quietly said, “What the hell am I doing here?” You know, like he recognized just how great this songwriter named Townes Van Zandt was and how was HE going to be able to follow. And this is Guy Clark saying that!

LS: Steve Earle once said that Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world. Do you agree?

TLH: To say Townes was a great songwriter really is just too simple. The rhythm of his lyrics, the meter, the rhymes - each word carefully crafted thoughtfully placed. His ability to paint complex verbal pictures with music as the backdrop was unparalleled in my opinion. Hell, you don’t even need the music really. Just sit down sometime and read them like you would a poem. I guess it’s pretty hard to say he was the “best” songwriter but I will say that nobody wrote one better. I think Townes was a very complex human - really easy to like and probably difficult as hell to love. He was one of the funniest humans I’d ever met and really quite the character. Although he often seemed drunk or stoned, I’m not sure how much of that wasn’t a “front” (although that is not to say he didn’t drink. Far from it - his capacity to ingest alcohol was legendary!). He was an extremely clever, perceptive, insightful and warm human being. I’m also certain he would have made a terrible enemy.

LS: Thanks Terry Lee for keeping Townes legacy alive. Do you think Townes is missed now?

TLH: We lost a great one when Townes died. There will never be another and that’s the truth. It is certainly a testament to his strength of character and talent as a poet that we are still talking about him and still celebrating his songs all these many years later. I am confident that this celebration will continue for many, many more years to come.


2007 at La Pomme d'Eve: Iain Matthews, with Kreg Viesselman & Danny Schmidt, February 6 and 8; Hayes Carll & Mark Erelli, February 18; Adam Carroll & Michael O'Connor, March 20; Carrie Rodriguez & Stephen Simmons, April 26. More info:

Townes Van Zandt - For The Sake Of The Song .mp3
Townes Van Zandt - To Live Is To Fly .mp3
Townes Van Zandt - Loretta .mp3
Richard Dobson - Ballad of Robin Winter Smith .mp3
Terry Lee Hale - The Wish .mp3
Terry Lee Hale - Short Chain .mp3


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