As it turns out, this was a tape that deserved to be heard. Townes was just 25 when he did this show, and his voice here is smooth, warm and full of youthful vigor, and his stage manner is humorous and self-deprecating. As he says during the show, he had been performing professionally for about three years then. He had two albums under his belt, For the Sake of the Song (1968) and Our Mother the Mountain (1969). Inspired by Lightnin¹ Hopkins, Hank Williams and Bob Dylan, Townes was writing songs that had touches of the blues, country and folk of his heroes, but already he was forging his own style, encompassing both impressionistic, visionary poetry and unflinching lyrical honesty. It was a style that would come to influence such disparate performers as Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, the Cowboy Junkies and Nirvana¹s Kurt Cobain.
Of the nine songs Townes sang that night, four came from his first two albums‹²Tecumseh Valley,² ³Like a Summer¹s Thursday,² ³Second Lover¹s Song² and ³She Came and She Touched Me.² ³Lungs² and ³Rake² would appear on his next two albums. But ³Talking Thunderbird Wine Blues² and ³The Ballad Of Ira Hayes² (the 1964 Johnny Cash hit) wouldn¹t appear on a Van Zandt album until 1989 and 1994 respectively. And the dead-pan satirical ³Talking KKK Blues² has never, before now, been issued on a Townes Van Zandt album.
Townes would go on to release a total of 15 albums in his lifetime, which ended January 1, 1997, when he died of a heart attack at age 52. But his music lives on, and at Carnegie Hall he is now forever young.
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