Townes Van Zandt: The annotated discography
Live At The Old Quarter
This double album is the essence of his work. Live, just the man, his guitar, songs. With the characteristic interplay between humorous stories and sad songs. All the really important hits of the great creative period on it, plus revealing cover versions. If only one record, then this one.
Flyin Shoes / At My Window
The middle phase. His best studio albums. A perfect balance of artist at the zenith of his work, timeless songs, versatile musicians, and rich production.
Our Mother The Mountain / Townes Van Zandt / Delta Momma Blues
The classic trio. Incredible depth in the songs. Highest artistic ambition. Results in a sound more Leonhard Cohen than Willie Nelson, more Phil Spector than spartan folk, often slow and sumptuous.
No Deeper Blue
Return to absolute top form in songwriting. A hymn to love, wonderful songs for his children, dark hell trips, surrealistic wordplay. Very well produced, although sometimes it seems as if Townes is only a guest on his own record.
The Nashville Sessions
The album for the country fans. Lively arrangements, country, bluegrass, miles away from the solo live recordings or the wide screen sounds of the early albums.
Excellent live album with exclusively cover versions. Rolling Stones, Dylan, Springsteen, Lightnin Hopkins. Although Townes is THE songwriter par excellence, each of the covers here is worth it.
High Low and Inbetween
Patchy album. You’ll like this if you are not afraid of religious undertones. The weakest from the early days.
The Late Great
Higher percentage of covers and mediocre songs. Not his best album, but with his two greatest hits.
Duet versions with the who‘s who of the Texas music scene, very tastefully done, but largely redundant.
Rearview Mirror / Highway Kind / Live and Obscure / Rain On A Conga Drum / A Gentle Evening With / Two Rode Together: FolkScene, Los Angeles KPFK Broadcast (with Guy Clark)
The best among the live albums. Great song selection, decent recording quality, the occasional genial flute, and last but not least Townes’ stories between the songs make these albums a perfect addition to the studio albums.
A Far Cry From Dead
Bad album, released posthumously. Re-recorded rock accompaniment to Townes’ vocals. Undifferentiated studio music, whining e-guitars. Don’t touch that.
Acoustic Blue / Abnormal / In Pain / Live At McCabe’s / Absolutely Nothing / Live At The Jester Lounge / Live At Union Chapel / A Private Concert / Live At The Whole Coffee House / Rear View Mirror Vol 2 / Documentary / Down Home / Down Home & Abroad / Calling Me Home / A Whisper Deep Within
A larger number of live albums. Some of them really bad, wrong song selection, trivial recordings that nobody needs. Some of them offer at least more or less interesting live recordings of rare songs.
For The Sake Of The Song (aka First Album) / In The Beginning / Sunshine Boy
The debut album drowned some of the timeless lyrics in overproduction. The songwriting dwindles in the second half of the album. The second is a completely superfluous look at the very early years. Don’t buy it. The third one, a collection of demos, is only interesting for real hardcore fans who already have everything and want to get a new perspective in form of alternative versions.
Translated from the discography in the book by Martin Wimmer: Hankfurt (published 2019 in Germany, with essays on Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, Bob Dylan and many more).
An english version is available in the book A Haven For Songs