The title is not misleading: In the Beginning is a collection of recordings the iconic Texas singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt laid down in Nashville in 1966, two years prior to releasing his first album. Accompanied by his own atmospheric, finger-picked acoustic guitar, Van Zandt paints melancholy portraits in words and with his sturdy, haunted vocals, singing of drifters, loners, gamblers (not necessarily the type who play games, but those who take risks in life and love), lovers, and dreamers caught in largely unfortunate circumstances. A couple of these songs served as templates for later, better-known tunes, but for the most part even Van Zandt cognoscenti will be hearing new music. There are only ten cuts; it goes fast, but it hits hard. A greasy Bo Diddley groove (on the album's sole band track) provides the rhythmic propulsion for an affectionate portrait of a seductive, drug-bearing lover in "Black Jack Mama." The lilting, singsong strains of "Gypsy Friday" frame a perspective on the healing, redemptive powers of a song. Deliberately strummed, plaintively sung, "When Your Dreams Die" is one of Van Zandt's most poetic affirmations of undying love. The vividly rendered landscapes described in the tender "Colorado Bound" turn out to be a backdrop for a road song pulled deep from within a broken heart, whereas the same profound sense of place seems far more sinister in "Big Country Blues," on which the music is dark and foreboding and the singer embittered by the world of poverty and misery. Stark and riveting, In the Beginning may be the start of what was a wondrous journey, but the music already feels lived in -- and lived, with a passion that never fails to be gripping and revelatory.
|Label:||Fat Possum Records|