In the Beginning (Compadre)

Townes Van Zandt 

In the Beginning (Compadre)

Townes Van Zandt's death in 1997 seemingly triggered a flood of "found" Van Zandt tapes and concert releases, the kind of albums a cynic might see as crass cash-ins. The quintessential Texas songwriter's medical problems undoubtedly left a pile of debt, but Van Zandt also left behind a circle of family and friends doggedly determined to see him make it, to become secure professionally, financially, physically and mentally. When those last two became impossible, the so-far-honorable efforts to solidify his place in the canon began.

In the Beginning, the most recent step in that project, is billed as the rediscovery of long-lost "first demo" tapes -- a session from 1966, two full years before his first official release. Fans, even those who might wince a bit at the cheesiness of the bands that accompany him on "Black Widow Blues" and "Hunger Child Blues," need this one. It might even be a good place for Van Zandt novices to start, because his songs here, most accompanied by his spare guitar, are as direct, graceful and artful as anything he ever did. For those still in mourning, the pictures of Van Zandt as a happy young man (and little boy) will sting a little, proof that there was a time when the man could smile. The songs themselves prove that he always wrote songs capable of tearing up even the most solid hearts.

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