Townes Van Zandt,
The Best of Townes Van Zandt
(Tomato, 2002)

Shortly after its 21st-century revival, Tomato Records turned to one of its staple catalogue artists, Townes Van Zandt. Beginning with Tomato's original incarnation as Poppy Records in 1967, the label released nine albums of the singer-songwriter's darkly moody work replete as it is in vivid metaphors.

Also intending to create the definitive Townes Van Zandt collection, Tomato compiled this 17-track compendium. Some of the important and memorable tracks here from the Texas singing poet are "Tecumseh Valley," the song that got him first signed to Tomato Records, as well as "Pancho and Lefty" and "If I Needed You." These two would later be hits for Willy Nelson and Emmylou Harris.

While most of the tracks come from the Tomato discography, there are two previously unreleased songs. The first is Pete La Farge's "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," a stark and compelling piece delivered nearly as spoken word. Also unearthed here is a duet with Willie Nelson, "No Place to Fall."

After the work Tomato Records did in documenting the Van Zandt career, it is appropriate the label should mark its resurgence with this definitive compendium.

[ by Tom Schulte ]
Rambles: 13 July 2002

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