Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol. III
Neurot Recordings in conjunction with My Proud Mountain announces the third record of the Songs Of Townes Van Zandt series, which was started in 2012, featuring various artists covering the works of beloved American singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt. Songs Of Townes Van Zandt Vol. III features new renditions of nine classic tracks as interpreted by Amenra, Cave In, and Marissa Nadler.
If there was ever a folk/country singer to be beloved within the heavy music communities, that would undoubtedly be the late great Townes Van Zandt. I discovered Townes during a time when I was listening to heavy music nearly exclusively. There was something within his songs that connected with me, and in turn opened a door to music that has impacted me to this day.
Massachusetts’ Marissa Nadler opens this collection with an absolutely stunning take of “Quicksilver Daydreams of Maria,’ and later follows with a take of “Sad Cinderella” that had me thinking Emmylou Harris. No joke. Nadler later close the album with a remarkable version of “None But the Rain.”
As a singer-songwriter, Nadler’s music has been characterized as blending traditional folk, Gothic Americana, and dreamy pop into an original musical framework.” Her music “is rooted in old-school country and folk but brings in elements of experimental and black metal.”
Nadler says, “I’ve been a fan of Townes Van Zandt’s music for nearly as long as I’ve been writing songs. When I was starting out, a friend introduced me to Townes’s music, and I pretty much instantly fell in love with both the rawness of his songs as well as the intense sense of longing expressed within them. His lyrics are haunting and evocative and have inspired me endlessly. These melodies will linger with you, year after year, and hopefully keep you company along the way.”
Without question, one of my joys in this collection was discovering Marissa Nadler for myself. Down the rabbit hole I go.
Next up we have Belgian post-rock, doom band Amenra interpreting “Black Crow Blues,” “Kathleen,” and “Flyin’ Shoes.” The organ on the latter is a brilliant move. Between it and the brooding, methodical silence before the satisfying reprise,the song builds and transcends into something bigger than itself. Personally, I’m somewhat familiar with Amenra having seen them in an opening slot a few years back. That said, in no way was I prepared for their interpretations to be what I feel are the boldest renditions to date from any of the three volumes.
Lennart Bossu of Amenra says, “Being Belgians, the very American folk and country of Townes Van Zandt is not exactly the music we grew up listening to, but upon discovering his songs in our early twenties, they immediately struck a chord with us. Even people who do not understand the lyrics can probably tell that they are listening to someone who has lived and suffered, and, oddly enough, at the same time find deep comfort in his soothing voice. It is the kind of comfort that often defines great music or art in general, and it made the prospect of trying our own hand at a few of his songs no less daunting. Nonetheless, when we were asked to be part of this collection of Townes Van Zandt cover songs, we felt excited and compelled to be part of it, as, in a way, it offered us a chance to do something in return for the great songs he has given us, and also be a part of a series of albums that are almost exclusively comprised of artists we deeply respect.”
Also hailing from Massachusetts, Cave In first provides an astonishing live recording of “Nothin’,” later offering studio takes of “The Hole” and “At My Window” that amplify the beautiful darkness of Van Zandt’s songs. “The Hole” in particular is breathtaking. You feel the menace and dread and the song becomes even more epic and dramatic in it’s telling.
Steve Brodsky of Cave In stated about being part of the record, “In the winter of 2010, I did a solo tour with Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Bob Wayne. It was the three of us and Ansgar Glade traveling in Bob’s ‘green machine’ van around the UK and Ireland. At every show, Scott played the song ‘Caroline’ and each time I heard it, I found myself enraptured. This was my introduction to Townes Van Zandt. Pretty cool that ten years later, Ansgar has given me and Cave In this great opportunity to show our love for TVZ’s music.”
There have been countless recordings of Townes’ songs in the years preceding and especially following his death in 1997. I’ve enjoyed most of them, but few more than the three volumes of this series. The recordings range from the minimalist interpretations by Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Steve Von Till (Neurosis) and Scott “Wino” Weinrich (Saint Vitus, The Obsessed) on Volume one, continuing and exploring wider nuances with John Baizley (Baroness), Nate Hall (U.S. Christmas) and Mike Scheidt (YOB) on Volume 2, and now expands atmospherically courtesy of Vol. III, all while digging deeper into Van Zandt’s vast catalog of songs. For me, I find these three albums capture the essence of Townes Van Zandt that others have missed. I truly think Townes would have loved these recordings. This collection should be on countless end of year lists. Don’t miss it. Even if you’re thinking “I don’t do heavier music,” give this one a chance. This is as sincere a tribute as you’ll find.
Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol. III was released in North America through Neurot Recordings and in Europe by My Proud Mountain, on multiple vinyl variants and on CD on April 22nd, and through all digital platforms on July 1st. Purchases and Preorders for all formats can be found here: https://neurotrecordings.merchtable.com/artists/cave-in/amenra-cave-in-and-marissa-nadler-songs-of-townes-van-zandt-vol-iii-cd-lp-digi