Townes Van Zandt – At My Window – Craft Recordings

by | Nov 28, 2022 | Jazz CD Reviews, Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

A Texas singer-songwriter’s legend lives on with this journey of personal discovery and anecdotal cleverness.

Townes Van Zandt – At My Window (35th Anniversary Edition) – Sugar Hill Records (1987)/Craft Recordings CR00576 (2022) Record Store Day Black Friday Special Release [11-25-2022] sky blue vinyl, 33:20 ****1/2:

(Townes Van Zandt – acoustic guitar, vocals; Mickey White – lead, slide guitar; Donny Silverman – saxophone, flute; Jack Clement – acoustic guitar, dobro; Jim Rooney – acoustic guitar; Mark Howard – steel guitar, acoustic guitar; Charles Cochran – piano, DX-7; Mark O’Connor – fiddle, mandolin; Mickey Rafael – harmonica; Joey Miskulin – accordion; Roy Huskey Jr. – double bass; Kenny Malone – drums, percussion)

There is no songwriting community more highly regarded than the group from Texas. Mickey Newbury, Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earl, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett and Jerry Jeff Walker are important to this movement. If you were to interview these musicians, they would likely consider the greatest songwriter (Texas and beyond) to be Townes Van Zandt. His song “Pancho And Lefty” was immortalized by Nelson and Merle Haggard. His ten studio albums consist of moving, wry narratives that resonate 25 years after his untimely death (a cautionary tale of self-destruction). Van Zandt’s legacy is ongoing, thanks to cultural references, including his cover of The Rolling Stones’ song, “Dead Flowers” at the end of The Big Lebowski. 

Just in time for Record Store Day 2022, Craft Recordings has released a limited edition sky-blue re-mastered vinyl of the 1987 album, At My Window. This was his first studio release in 9 years. Here, Van Zandt seems to have transitioned from wild outlaw to reflective philosopher. With stripped-down instrumentals, Side A opens up with “Snowin’ On Raton”. Townes’ winsome voice articulates the melancholy of this warm-hearted remembrance. A harmonica, mandolin and acoustic guitars conjure a gentle sway, adding to the road weariness portrayed. In a lighter 3/4 time arrangement, Van Zandt creates an easygoing, amusing take on a humorous common theme. The addition of honky-tonk piano enhances the texture. On the title track, Van Zandt expresses a rare optimistic resonance as he watches day become night and looks back on his life. A refrain of “living is dancing and dying does nothing at all” is representative of his acuity for lyrical expression. Mark O’Connor’s fiddle is a nice touch. The vocal phrasing is excellent. “For The Sake Of The Song” delves into the ambivalence of romance, and Van Zandt’s straightforward vocals distill the almost sorrowful reproach. As his voice precariously climbs to higher-register, the impact is palpable. Picking up the pace, “Ain’t Leavin’ Your Love” is uptempo and bluesy with grooves and a muscular saxophone. There are popular culture references that feature the song’s festive ambiance.

Side B revisits the irony of relationships (“Buckskin Stallion Blues”) as the singer laments “if love can be and still be lonely…where does that leave me and you?”. Again, the choice of words and phrases is impeccable. Saxophone returns on “Little Sundance #2”, as the singer’s cynical resolve weakens. The overall musical themes show the multiple textures of Texas music. On a more comical note, “Still Lookin’ For You” examines the fool’s errand of pursuing a lover who has left for good. The saxophone and jauntiness give this song a roadhouse vibe. “Gone, Gone Blues” is a twang-infused shout out to a wandering girlfriend. A final tune, “The Catfish Song” is a plaintive gospel duet of voice and piano. Van Zandt’s earnest observations on aging are transformed by the gut-wrenching vocals. The merged imagery of religion and nature is an appropriate metaphor for the various themes of these intimate songs.

While many country fans revere Townes Van Zandt, his appeal has enjoyed some crossover success and expanded his fan base. Craft Recordings has done a superior job in re-mastering this album to vinyl (Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio). The sound mix is balanced with excellent studio separation. As an influential singer-songwriter, Townes Van Zandt is among the elite, and his music will always be testament to his unique artistic vision.

Side A:
Snowin’ On Raton;
Blue Wind Blew;
At My Window;
For The Sake Of The Song;
Ain’t Leavin’ Your Love

Side B:
Buckskin Stallion Blues;
Little Sundance #2;
Still Lookin” For You;
Gone, Gone Blues;
The Catfish Song.   

—Robbie Gerson 

More information available:

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Album Cover for Townes Van Zandt - At My Window

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