A Guide on Folk Music – Volume III
Arguably one of the greatest American singer-songwriters of the 20th century, I’ve a lot of respect for the ever-lonesome Townes Van Zandt and what he did for folk and country music. I respect the way he adeptly juxtaposed blunt humor with down-to-earth commentaries and often let his own personality creep in, transforming his music into something more genuine. Portrayed as a tragic man handicapped by his own personal demons, Van Zandt thrived in a live setting more than he did confined to a recording booth, his records marred by excess unbefitting to his desolate, gentle style. Recorded in a hot, packed to the brim bar in July 1973, Live at The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas
is considered by many to be the definitive work by the late musician, capturing the man himself doing what he did best – playing his music. There’s no flair or extravagance to be found, and his stage banter is moreso an acquired taste with his deadpan delivery; Van Zandt takes the stage, engages with his attentive audience, most of which had zero
knowledge of his music before that night, and puts on a performance that is worthy of such critical acclaim. A ninety-minute setlist that contained several of his greatest works, such as “For the Sake of the Song”, “Lungs” and “No Place to Fall”, Van Zandt merely goes through all twenty-seven of that night’s selections like quicksilver and never looks back, taking his receptive bar patron crowd with him along the way. For Van Zandt, personally, The Old Quarter
was a record that revived his career after a dispute between his producer Jack Clement and his old record label, Poppy; said dispute led to the shelving of his then-finished 7 Come 11
and a five-year period of relative inactivity on Van Zandt’s part. A revival much needed, Van Zandt viewed the success of The Old Quarter
with cautious optimism, proclaiming he was “out of the chute on a brand new horse”. With a clean slate, the ornate, pastoral vibe The Old Quarter
gives is telling, feeling as if Van Zandt and his music had been reborn that very night in Houston, Texas.