Townes Van Zandt – You Are Not Needed Now

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There’s no way to pick a favorite Townes Van Zandt song. If you’re a fan you’re bound not just to the song but the singer. This singer was more than the sum of his parts. He represented, indeed typified, a point of view on land, living, heart-ful-ness. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a song of his I didn’t like, much less admire like this one from his titanic 1972 recording ‘High, Low & In Between’:

Well, the birds were talking all at once
and the old man mowing down his lawn
he didn’t look like much too bad a guy
And I was thinkin’ Hang on, man, something’s wrong
your blues seems to be gone
heaven ain’t bad but you don’t get nothing done.

Lay down your head a while
you are not needed now
you are not needed now

Well, Allison laid an egg on me
and every time I turn around
it’s swimming through the air above my bed
I told Miss Higgs and she said fine
as long as you’re back in your room on time
I keep you clean and the girls will keep you fed

Lay down your head with mine
you are not needed now
and we got things to do

Between the blankets made of wool
the trains roll by every half an hour
and the body can get no restin’ done, it’s true
so I spend my time as best I can
thinkin’ big and making plans
and wondering where them trains are rolling to.

Lay down your head poor boy
and feel how the ground does move
and hear how them drivers sing

Well, goodbye friends, it’s time to close
everybody knows that’s the way it goes
where was it you lived in case I’m ever there
Well, three doors down and two behind
and it gets a little bit out of hand sometimes
don’t let it fool you into thinkin you don’t care.

Lay down your head and fly
and I’ll quietly pass you by
you won’t even see me go.

If I thought about it long enough
I just might make some kind of move
watchful lies are too hard on the soul.
With the smoke house just across the way
and this fog upon the light of day
I’d be hard put comin’ up with where to go.

Lay down your head poor boy
feel how the ground does move
hear how them drivers sing

What now, my darling one
go find a little fun
you are not needed now.


Ian Tyson – Summer Wages

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In keeping with the nascent Canadianophile theme, some cowboy poetry from Ian Tyson:

Never hit seventeen
When you play against the dealer
You know that the odds
Won’t ride with you
Never leave your woman alone
With your friends around to steal her
She’ll be gambled and gone
Like summer wages

And we’ll keep rollin on
Till we get to Vancouver
And the lady that I love
Shes living there
Its been six long months
And more since I’ve seen her
Maybe she’s gambled and gone
Like summer wages

In all the beer parlors
All down along Main Street
The dreams of the season
Are spilled down on the floor
All the big stands of timber
Wait there just for fallin’
The hookers stand watchfully
Waitin by the door

I’m going to work on them towboats
With my slippery city shoes
Lord I swore I would never do that again
Through the great fog bound straights
Where the cedars stand waitin
I’ll be lost and gone
Like summer wages
(Break – fiddle same as verse)

Never hit seventeen
When you play against the dealer
You know that the odds
Won’t ride with you
Never leave your woman alone
With your friends around to steal her
She’ll be gambled and gone
Like summer wages
And the years are gambled and lost
Like summer wages

The Mavericks – All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down

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Raoul Malo has a voice at once tender and commanding; which you have a sense must fill a room even without amplification. The phenomenal picking of Nick Kane, a rock solid country rhythm section in Robert Reynolds & Paul Deakin, combined with a masterful performance by accordionist Flaco Jiménez made this a personal favorite on my 1996 summer hegira, fishing my way through the West. As I recall I left the CD for this song –1995’s Music for All Occasions– in a friend’s CD player in Las Vegas at the beginning of my homeward drive. As far as I know it’s there still.

Of course, I saw these guys once. They opened for Alan Jackson in Winston-Salem NC at the Lawrence Joel Memorial Coliseum. In my humble opinion, and with no disrespect to the headline performance, The Mavericks kicked that room’s ass.

Keith Whitley-I’m No Stranger To The Rain

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I like Keith Whitley for a lot of reasons, not least of which the fact that our range is fairly similar. Singing along with his recordings lets me have fun in my lower registers.

I also happen to like & identify with the message here. I can’t necessarily identify with Keith’s magnificent tonsorial achievements, but his voice still sounds good in my ear twenty years after his passing.

I’m no stranger to the rain
I’m a friend of thunder
Friend, is it any wonder lightning strikes me
I’ve fought with the devil
Got down on his level
But I never gave in, so he gave up on me…

Trio – High Sierra

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Three preeminent female vocalists from the borderlands between country and folk coax every appropriate ounce of anguish out of this Harley Allen number:

The way I feel, can’t explain
So much passion turned to pain
The sun still shines most of the time
Did you know the sun shines when it rains

I’ve been higher than the high sierra
Lower than death valley must be
I’ve been right, mostly wrong
Wrong about you, right about me

Ian Tyson

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Tom & I saw Ian Tyson at the Tractor Tavern night before last. We went in with tempered expectations –Mr. Tyson is after all 76 years of age– but came out believers. The clear baritone that intoned ‘Four Strong Winds’ in 1964 with Sylvia Fricker (later Tyson) is gone, but has lost none of its strength or accuracy. Ian Tyson can still hit his notes –even the high ones– but now he hits them with a bucket full of gravel.

If you’re a fan and get a chance to see him, you won’t be disappointed.