Townes Van Zandt :: Live – Minneapolis, MN, 1973

townesThere’s a collection of unreleased Townes Van Zandt recordings from 1971-72 coming out in a few weeks. I haven’t heard a note of it, but I’m going to go out on a limb and call it one of the best releases of 2013. The years 1968-1973 were Van Zandt’s peak period, with classics pouring out of him at an astonishing rate. The albums he released during that time — Our Mother the Mountain, Townes Van Zandt, Delta Momma Blues, High, Low and in Between, and The Late Great Townes Van Zandt — contain the tunes that made Townes one of the greatest American songwriters of the 20th century. But the albums themselves are a famously mixed bag, with overblown production often obscuring Townes’ brilliance. That’s why recordings like this one, made at the University of Minnesota’s Whole Coffeehouse in late 1973, are essential listening.

With nothing but an acoustic guitar for accompaniment, Van Zandt plays a marvelous, hour-long set to what sounds like a crowd of 40 lucky human beings. For a guy whose battles with the bottle were legendary (and made for an unpredictable onstage career), his focus is laser sharp here, every syllable perfectly placed, every fingerpicked guitar line cutting to the quick. With a profoundly sorrowful “Tecumseh Valley,” the unbelievably bleak “Nothing,” and his enigmatic, bottomless “Pancho and Lefty,” the mood is dark, world-weary. Townes attempts to lighten the mood with a satirical talking blues but even that is a little harrowing, and the traditional “Molly and Tenbrooks” is perky musically, but it’s still about the gruesome death of a racehorse. The guy couldn’t resist a sad song. words/ t wilcox

Download: Townes Van Zandt :: Live – Minneapolis, MN, 1973

1. Radio Intro 2. I’ll Meet You In The Morning 3. Hobo Bill 4. Where I Lead Me 5. Broke Down Engine Blues 6. For The Sake Of The Song 7. Nothing 8. Molly and Tenbrooks 9. Talking Thunderbird Blues 10. Pancho and Lefty 11. Mr Mudd and Mr Gold 12. Tecumseh Valley 13. The Ballad of Ira Hayes 14. (Quicksilver Daydreams Of) Maria 15. Tying Ten Knots In The Devil’s Tail

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27 thoughts on “Townes Van Zandt :: Live – Minneapolis, MN, 1973

  1. Live At The Old Quarter is an annual tradition every Christmas. This is a nice post NYE desert.

  2. Thanks! Never had the good fortune to hear about him while he was around! What does the FM at the end of the album title designate?

  3. I grew up in Minneapolis in the 60’s and 70’s and hearing about the Whole Coffee House brought the memories flooding back. It was located on the west bank of the U of M and was where the “cool” people hung out. Thanks for posting this – it’s wonderful!

  4. This is one of my favorite bootlegs. The Cuckoo Song is a favorite. And Townes’ cover of Ira Hayes is better than Cash’s, I think.

  5. that “sunshine boy” cut listed above is a perfect example of the overblown production mentioned in the post…too many drugs inthe mixing booth.

  6. I was at this concert at The Whole in the basement of Coffman Union at the U of M. Although it was a long time ago, the memory of that evening is pretty clear. He was spot-on that night and we knew that we were witnessing something special. There were about 15 people in the room. About 10 or 11 of us were from the same small town in western Minnesota (Granite Falls) all part of Townes’ following. To my recollection, there were 3 or 4 other folks there, at two different tables. One of them must have recorded this. We sat around and talked with Townes for a bit afterward, too. It is amazing to hear it again. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  7. By 1973 Townes had already recorded most of his best material – some of the greatest songs ever written. And he was playing to a coffeehouse audience of a little more than a dozen people! And to this day, despite the best efforts of champions such as Steve Earle, he remains largely unknown. I just don’t get it. Thanks for posting this.

  8. I found this on a blog a while back and downloaded it. Weeks later, I sent the link to some friends and the file had been removed. Curious, I went to the blog and scrolled down to read the comments on the post. In a fit of vitriol, Townes’ ex-wife, Jeanene, had ordered the bootleg removed, complaining freeloaders like us were the reason why she has to struggle to support her and Townes’ 2 kids hand-to-mouth with the paltry royalties Townes left behind.

  9. man, my grandfather was good friends with tvz & he has a ton of reel to reel recordings from houston of townes and guy clark (among others) just sitting in the cabinet under his tv….

    i keep telling him to send them to a mastering studio to be saved from the texas heat but he underestimates the interest in these sorts of things…..

  10. Man. What I would give to talk to (1) the poster who was at the Minnesota gig and (2) the poster whose grandfather has reel to reels of Townes, etc. Even though I just a little younger than Townes, I never saw him live. Can’t imagine being lucky enough to have that memory. The new 2-CD set is amazing. And the liner notes should win a Grammy. Especially the last paragraph. Brilliant.

  11. Smig, I know there were at least 5 people sitting at the table where I was sitting so there had to be more people there than that.

    Townes partied with us that night and with some of the others all week.

    Is the reason I can’t get the bootleg because I procrastinated or because I’m so enept at this technical stuff?

  12. Jo. The files are out there. I am writing a blog on “Quicksilver Daydreams of Maria,” so I googled Townes Van Zandt + minnesota coffeehouse this website came up …

    I’m not sure how it works, but there are replies, so someone figured out how to lift them. Good luck.

  13. I have a cassette of this concert somewhere. It was broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio KSJN classical music station. They had a short lived folk music concert series.

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