Sunday 11 May 2014

Mike Scheidt, John Baizley & Nate Hall - Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol. II (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : Out Now
Label : My Proud Mountain/Neurot Recordings

Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol. II, track listing :

1. To Live Is To Fly (Mike Scheidt)
2. Pancho & Lefty (Nate Hall)
3. St. John The Gambler (John Baizley & Katie Jones)
4. Rake (Mike Scheidt)
5. Waitin’ Around To Die (Nate Hall & Stevie Floyd)
6. For The Sake Of The Song (John Baizley & Katie Jones)
7. Highway Kind (Mike Scheidt)
8. Our Mother The Mountain (Nate Hall & Dorthia Cottrell)
9. If I Needed You (John Baizley & Katie Jones)

Review :

The second installment of covers of the country legend's songbook features alumni of the alternative metal scene interpreting a singer songwriter who was terminally under appreciated during his life/career but whose status has grown in death. Can the songs here live up to Steve Earle's (retracted) claim that Van Zandt was the better of Bob Dylan in the song-writing stakes?

Both To Live is To Fly and Pancho and Lefty make a convincing argument, with stripped down voice and acoustic arrangements allowing Scheidt and Hall, respectively, to put their own talent on display and stamp the songs as their own. St John The Gambler has Baizley working with a more lush arrangement and the boon of a female vocalist in accompaniment which contrasts well with his own voice.

Thereafter the album flows well- three artists of relatively disparate acts produce versions of Van Zandt's songs which are by no means samey, but which are all of a type. If you enjoy singer songwriter material of the more sombre type, you will find much to enjoy here. Nowhere near as “country” as Van Zandt's 70's filmic compatriot David Allan Coe but not as fokey as say Dylan's earlier material, I would postulate that Van Zandt pitches as a more sombre and haunted Neil Young (no comparison in voice, or even content, but the terrain inhabited is not too far away).

The content is certainly dark- Waitin' Around to Die is no easy listen and nor is The Highway Kind. The songs here reek of alcohol and missed opportunities. They clearly resonate with members of the metal/alternative community and thus I would recommend this record to any music fan and indeed, any heavy music fan. The acoustic may not be your conduit of choice normally, but you may find a lot in here that is pitch black in theme and delivery. A strong collection that may well serve to introduce fans of the artists here to reach back into the world of outlaw country and of a man who never found the success he deserved.

Words by : Richard Maw

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