Various Artists - Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol. III

15 May 2022 - Thorsten

(semi) acoustic covers | Neurot Recordings | Release date: 22 Apr 2022 | Favorite song: Cave In - The Hole

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Townes van Zandt is an American phenom as he was surely a classical country or folk artist and as such is not too famous outside of the USA, but his songs have been made pretty popular by Neurot Recordings which now releases the third volume of their Songs of Townes Van Zandt-cover-album-series. This time with another great line-up: Marissa Nadler, Amenra and Cave In and once again it is amazing how well these songs work with very different artists and very different musical settings.

Marissa Nadler shows a very laid back understanding of Townes’ songs – not laid back in the sense of pop-songs, but with that tiny bit of distancing to her vocals that it becomes clear that she is narrating the songs and vocals. Her versions of, for example ”Quicksilver Daydreams of Maria”, are wonderfully ethereal, of course, because of her wavey, floating vocals, her signature sound. With every song she performs it seems as if Townes had written them for Marissa and her exquisite performance. Her three songs are accompanied by accordion and a melancholic, longing acoustic guitar so that they flow a bit between Heather Nova’s good songs and Fleetwood Mac.

Cave In’s lead singer Stephen Brodsky is a close friend of Marissa as they already collaborated on the Droneflower-project and several other projects. Here Stephen and Cave In cover three songs, one of them being a live-recording of ”Nothin’” done in honor of their dead brother Caleb Scofield, who loved Van Zandt as well as Neil Young. (By the way, I could swear that it was recorded at Roadburn 2018, but as there is no such cover on the record, I cannot claim this to be 100% correct). This song about escapism and the consequences of being lost for one’s family and friends speaks directly to the hearts of those who mourned about Caleb’s death back then. Listening to this track once again shows the impact of music as it transports one directly back to that place and time. Cave In also do the most interesting cover version on this compilation with their post-punk-affiliated version of ”The Hole” which features a muscular, quick solo guitar passage.

Amenra delivers two very minimalist and intimate covers, ”Black Crow Blues” and ”Kathleen” and one a bit more folksy one, which reminds the listener definitely of their emotional, distance-less performance at dunk!festival’s 2021 online edition where they played a completely acoustic set. The performance of ”Flyin’ Shoes” is one to behold as they really incorporate a surreal soundscape (maybe another accordion?) underneath Colin’s hushed, emotional and connecting vocals. These three songs show the band at one of the things they do very well – record very emotional songs that do not need their regular blackened post-metal soundscapes. They are able to come so close to the audience, just like they did on their perfect rendition of Zjef Vanuytsel’s ”De Zotte Morgen”. This band is more than just powerful riffs – they are surely one of a kind.

The fact that Neurot Recordings was able to compile another version of Van Zandt-songs with this diverse lineup just shows how many people love Van Zandt and how many good songs by him are out there. Let’s hope for volumes IV, V and more! The music must be spread among more people outside the US!