Townes Van Zandt - In the Beginning 12 inch
Not surprisingly, when one listens to these early recordings of Townes Van Zandt, it's obvious from the start that he was someone and something that arrived fully formed. Even if the songs themselves weren’t quite as refined as they would become, virtually all of the elements are in place: the poetry, the stark melodies, the restless wanderlust, the inherent melancholy and impenetrable darkness; all of which this would inhabit his lyrics and delivery for the rest of his too-short life. The songs on In the Beginning were recorded in his first Nashville recording sessions in 1966, pre-dating the release of For the Sake of the Song by two years. Eight of these ten songs was recorded with Van Zandt playing solo on his guitar. All of them are quite revealing, not just for the obvious lyric and melody reasons, but for his guitar playing abilities; he was a considerable flatpicking talent and picked up his idol's, fellow Houstonian Lightin’ Hopkins', trademark stutter shuffle as well. The blues are as present Van Zandt's tunes as folk and country were. Check the set’s opening track “Black Widow’s Blues,” one of two songs recorded with a full backing band; the other is the stellar “Hunger Child Blues.” He’s got the blues moan, the chilling lyrics (best not revealed here so as not to spoil the listener's surprise), and a dynamic delivery that was a trademark then and there. Some songs here hint at others to come later. “Gypsy Friday” is one of the most pure and gentle of Van Zandt's folk songs, and recalls his traveling tunes. One can hear the gigantic influence of Hank Williams on the beautiful love song “Waitin’ for the Day.” The album’s final two tracks -- "Big Country Blues” and “Black Crow Blues” -- feature shapes and hints of “Waitin’ Round to Die” and “Marie.” Take this for what it is, not some holy grail, but a collection of heretofore unheard and excellent early Van Zandt material, which is in itself a gift.