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Various Artists

Poet: A Tribute To Townes Van Zandt – 2001 (Freefalls Entertainment)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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Townes Van Zandt's brush with mainstream success was limited to two '80's hit covers of his songs ("If I Needed You" by Emmylou Harris and Don Williams, "Pancho and Lefty" by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard), but the who's who list of alt. country luminaries who contributed to this project reveals the impact the late singer/songwriter had on his contemporaries.

The aforementioned hits are revisited here. Ray Benson strays from his usual swing style with an effective rendition of the ballad "If I Needed You," and Delbert McClinton delivers a soulful reading of "Pancho and Lefty." Both Harris and Nelson appear here as well. Harris covers the haunting "Snake Song," while Nelson performs dark lovers tale "Marie." Billy Joe Shaver tackles the uptempo "White Freightliner Blues," featuring the last recorded guitar work of his late son Eddy. Steve Earle also shows his hard edge with a rocking version of "Two Girls."

Other standout tracks include Guy Clark's "To Live's To Fly," Lucinda Williams with "Nothin'," and the reunited Flatlanders with "Blue Wind Blew." Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Robert Earl Keen, Cowboy Junkies and Van Zandt's son John T. Van Zandt also contribute.

There's not a weak track here. Even the little known Pat Haney, a FreeFalls artist, does an impressive version of "Waitin' 'Round To Die."

Though commercial success eluded Townes Van Zandt in his lifetime his songs have been covered often over the past three decades. This superb collection will leave his admirers hoping that there will be similar projects in the future.