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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Record Review – Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till & Wino

Songs Of Townes Van Zandt 
There's been a real glut of tribute LPs, EPs and 45s of late. Indeed, the Fruits de Mer label seems to be basing its entire raison d'être on rehashing great moments of music's past. The art world has been playing with for recreation of seminal moments in cultural history for quite some years now, most notably with the work of Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard whose collaborative reconstructions of such magical Mojo moments as David Bowie's final Ziggy Stardust concert and The Cramps' 1978 gig in The Napa Mental Institute serve as meditations upon the meaning of authenticity, historicity and memory. In the music world too, there have been clever, purposeful revisitations of collective pasts such as Pussy Galore's cover of Exile On Main Street in its entirety: a work that descends into the vagueness of forgetting and gleeful noise as it lurches towards its glorious collapse.

Generally, though, collections of other people's songs seem to serve little purpose other than to remind the listener of just how good the originals were – and I say this as someone who's appeared on a tribute LP myself! Back in the late ’80s, a teenage garage R'n'B combo I fronted, The Beatpack, were asked to appear on an LP of cover versions of songs by The (Dutch) Outsiders. Given that we'd covered maybe six or seven of their songs over time, it seemed churlish to refuse. We bashed out a halfway decent version of 'Misfit', added our own slight twist, and off the track went into the universe, serving mainly to reiterate the wonder of the CQ version. At the time, we were happy just to spread the love for one of our biggest influences, not realising we were almost certainly preaching solely to the converted and adding little if anything to the band's ’60s oeuvre!

And so it is with this lil' ol' ragged country thing I have on my record deck here. That anyone even remotely touched by the good side of country music would wish to pay tribute to the dark genius of Townes Van Zandt is no surprise at all. Gone some 15 long years now, his sombre, bitter, brooding music continues to bewitch and haunt most who come into contact with it. That one might wish to go back to his old recordings time and time again and gaze into their glacial gloom is also understandable. What is less so is why anyone needs to hear these songs represented through someone else's filter. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with any of the loving renditions offered up here; it's just that they bleed into something of an emotional monotone, add nothing to the originals and will surely only be appreciated by those already au fait with the great man himself.

I hope I'm wrong and that this might just draw some young kid somewhere back to Flyin' Shoes or Our Mother, The Mountain.
But I doubt it.

Hugh Dellar

1 comment:

  1. well said Hugh - Townes don't really need covering - it would be so tough to capture the cracked , fragile beauty of his songs unless you had actually 'lived' it ... his songs conjure up incredible images,sometimes bleak - more often than not sombre ,but they are minitaure works are art and should be left well alone in my opinion.