I found out about Townes Van Zandt long after I was into the blues.
But maybe that’s a good thing.
Earlier into my listening days, I may have written him off just because he was described as country music.
We all get older, and we hopefully realize that everything we were so sure about was absolutely wrong.
Due to a country music craze in college, I was exposed to modern country radio hits constantly. For years, I would be that guy that would say ‘I like a lot of music, except country.’
Townes van Zandt’s music came to me after I had been primed by two artists: Scrapper Blackwell and Alvin Youngblood Hart.
Blackwell’s song Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out really stood out to me. For some reason it reminded me of the song You’ve Got a Friend in Me from Toy Story.
This association made me begin to wake up to the possibility that country music was approachable for me.
Alvin Youngblood Hart is a contemporary artist who I discovered by chance while roving on YouTube. When I dug into his music, my favorite tracks were his country inspired tunes.
His song Tallacatcha really stood out to me:
These two artists primed me for Townes van Zandt’s music coming to me in exactly the right place and time.
I was ready for an artist like him and I was holed-up reading about music in a rainy hotel in Salzburg.
Although it was not the first time I had seen Van Zandt’s name, this time I stopped and listened.
Waitin’ Around to Die was the first song I came across:
What Townes taught me, is that I can feel the expression of his art, even though it’s clothed in a country approach. The music permeated the hard shell I had put up against country music touching me.
Thank god it did.
When something we resent becomes something we love, it shows how many little ideals we baselessly hold onto.
It also shows us the process of letting go.
I love how we learn lessons through a seemingly disconnected series of events lining up perfectly.
When we see the result, we cannot imagine life having worked any differently.
Everything is easier to see in retrospect though—
—and the journey always continues.
I love country blues music.
I’m not talking about electric guitars and shuffle rhythms.
I’m talking about the real old blues.
The country-blues were regional African-American folk musics. These sounds laid the foundation for music today, and continues to be present, even if it’s just an esoteric ghost of a memory.
I found this music during a long journey, meandering through genres and artists, not knowing what I was looking for until I found it.
My journey started with the Grateful Dead. I always liked the acoustic songs like Brokedown Palace, Ripple, and Black Peter. This was Clue #1 to what I was looking for.
Clue #2 was when I started listening to Neil Young and Leonard Cohen. I was really drawn to their earlier music— their unconventional voices and acoustic guitar accompaniment struck me.
Young’s and Cohen’s music seemed so immediate and self-sufficient. I felt that these singers were drawing on something rich.
A source I could feel but not understand.
Clue #3 hit me like a train— it was like lenses suddenly snapping into focus. The path on my journey was illuminated.
This moment occurred when I stumbled on a video of the blues singer Lightning Hopkins playing Baby, Please Don’t Go.
Afterwards I thought to myself: This is how the guitar is supposed to sound.
My new mission was to capture and fill my head with that sound.
Have I been able to capture it? No, because that’s the journey. Discovering the blues was just the clearest step on the journey thus far.
What I did manage to capture was the realization that I’m drawn to the image and sounds of the lone singer-songwriter bearing themselves to the world.
In order to express themselves in a way that touches us, they have to tap into that rich channel.
I feel like when I play guitar for people, or hear the music of one of these singer-songwriters, I get to tap into that richness and get to experience it again.
If only for those moments.
My journey has led me to many interesting stations, and I am excited to share them with you.
If you haven’t heard the old country blues music, listen to it.
It will give you the foundation to understand where all the music we love came from and also hopefully make you feel like I did when I first heard it.
Have you ever heard a song that makes you feel like nothing bothers you anymore? Have you ever seen something so beautiful, everything else disappears?
If you have, then this is a site for people like you. It’s the site I wish had existed, so I decided to make it.
I’m going to post daily content about photography, music, philosophy, art + whatever else strikes me.