Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Happy Songs of Townes Van Zandt

It is said that upon being asked why he never wrote happy songs, Townes Van Zandt replied, "They're all happy songs.  Some folks just don't "get" it." 
Happiness is a matter of one's own perspective I suppose, but none can deny that Townes' music is lyrically beautiful and timelessly profound.  Dad and I were privileged to attend a celebration of his songs tonight at Charles and Myrtle's Coffeehouse in Chattanooga, where a group of regional musicians gathered in concert to benefit the venue.

You may know Townes Van Zandt's music well - who hasn't heard of "Pancho & Lefty?" Or you may not know it at all.  Either way, I hope you will enjoy these highlights from tonight's show, along with samples of his original music.  At the end is included a list of fantastic performers and tunes I was not able to capture with my camera.  Some were my favorites from the show, so be sure to look up those videos and lyrics for more "happy" songs!


Bob Carty, "Two Girls" at Charles & Myrtle's Coffeehouse
Check out The Real Bob Carty

Bob Carty played "Two Girls" on this instrument he found in a music store in Ringgold, Georgia. The body is made from a Red Star Cheddar Cheese box and lent an interesting sound to the images found in the lyrics of this pretty song.  Listen to the video below.

Troy Underwood, "Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel"
"Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel" is one of many of Townes' songs about leaving.  Troy Underwood learned this one for the show and wowed the audience with his rendition.  


Channing Wilson
Everyone has a favorite Townes Van Zandt song.  Channing Wilson's is "Loretta."  The comments left on the Youtube say it all, "Just one hell of a good song."


Martha Ann Brooks, "Two Hands"

Martha Ann Brooks is not only a fine singer-songwriter, but I consider her a friend.  She organized this concert and was said to have sent hundreds of emails.  However she did it, it was a great success!  Her musical contribution was the gospel song "Two Hands."


Andrew Kelsay, "She Came and She Touched Me"

Andrew Kelsay runs the coffeehouse, making coffee and most importantly, the best cookies - ANYWHERE!  Some thought it a myth that he actually plays and sings, as few of us had ever seen this happen!  Andrew performed my favorite of tonight's songs.  The imagery of this one left me in awe and wanting more!  Listen for: "Harlequin mandolins harmonize helplessly." 


The group closed the show, performing "Harm's Swift Way," Townes Van Zandt's last song,
which was recently recorded by Robert Plant and The Band of Joy

Please also look up these artists and the music they performed tonight:

John Lathim, "Blaze's Blues"
Steve Mikell, "Tecumseh Valley"
Bill E. Payne, "White Freightliner Blues"
Chris Stevens, "Waiting Around to Die"
Pattee Wilbanks, "Don't You Take It Too Bad"
Jeff Talmadge, "Snow on Raton"
Nathan Bell, "If I Needed You"
Jerre Haskew, "To Live is To Fly"
Travis Kilgore, "Pancho & Lefty"
Butch Ross, "Flyin Shoes"
Vic Burgess, "You Are Not Needed Now"
Robby Hopkins, "Still Looking For You"

For more information about Townes Van Zandt please visit

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