The following tribute albums by solo performers of Townes material are recommended:
Jonell Mosser, “Around Townes,” because it was the first such project.
Richard Dobson, Townes’ friend from Texas who lived in Switzerland for a long time, has come up with a great album with “Amigos” that makes the songs his own in clean country language.
British songwriter Jinder released “Brother Flower. The Songs Of Townes Van Zandt” an excellent album of quiet, thoughtful versions.
Above all, though, Steve Earle, “Townes” is recommended because it’s consistently listenable. Steve named his son Justin Townes, so there’s heart and soul in it. Steve Earle won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album for “Townes”. It contains exclusively cover versions of Townes Van Zandt, in the double vinyl one LP with band, one solo. Earle obviously knows what he owes to the old master. It’s not just the songwriting and life schools Earle went through with Townes, not just the circles opened up by being so close to the old hero. I think, above all, Earle’s “coffee table” saying contributed more to his own fame than to Townes’.
Paul Flaata from Norway, former singer of Midnight Choir, could convince on “Come Tomorrow. Songs Of Townes Van Zandt” in 2016 with his deep voice and dark arrangements.
Jon Hogan did a fantastic job on “Every Now And Then: Songs Of Townes Van Zandt & Blaze Foley”, a tribute to both Townes and his friend Blaze.
Singer-songwriter David Broza has released an album in which he has adapted fragments of poems from the estate of Townes Van Zandt into his own songs. To say it in advance: a cruelly failed experiment. With all sympathy for Broza – even for collectors, experts and freaks: you don’t have to listen to “Night Dawn – The Unpublished Poetry Of Townes Van Zandt”. The album has no humor, nor does it have sadness. Too much mediocre craftsmanship. Screwed up.
Of the Various Artists tribute albums with Townes cover versions, on the other hand, only a few are recommendable:
“Poet” because it features inoffensive yet sympathetic versions of Townes pals.
“Introducing Townes Van Zandt Via The Great Unknown” because it features well-considered, well-produced alternative indie versions of the songs that add depth to the originals.
The sequel “More Townes Van Zandt By The Great Unknown” already recycles only more leftovers. Not good.
“There’s A Hole In Heaven Where Some Sin Slips Through”, on the other hand, is crap because it contains sloppy, meaningless versions that strip the songs of their core.
Similar goes for “Riding The Range – The Songs Of Townes Van Zandt”, a bit better, but not a must-have in the closet.
The promising project “Songs Of Townes Van Zandt” by June Neurot Recordings, in which singers of metal bands are supposed to breathe new life into the songs, failed in Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 because of despondency.
Lovely local projects, on the other hand, are “Days Full Of Rain. A Portland Tribute to Townes Van Zandt” and “Lowlands and Friends Play Townes Van Zandt’s Last Set.” The latter is a live album in which musicians from Italy with some guests reenacted Townes’ last concert in 2016.
From there also comes as the last relevant project so far, the brilliant double album “When The Winds Blows – The Songs Of Townes Van Zandt”, with partly Texan star cast. Contemporary and tasteful. Highly recommended!
There are more. Listen to them here: