Townes Van Zandt – Flyin’ Shoes

LP Review | Charly | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5

When the needle first located the groove on a borrowed copy of Townes Van Zandt’s 1978 release Flyin’ Shoes, it had already been around for a good ten years. It was in fact, the first LP I’d heard by the Texan singer-songwriter, although many of his songs were familiar from versions recorded by others, notably Emmylou Harris and in particular her reading of “Pancho and Lefty” a couple of years before this release. The opening few bars of “Loretta”, gave me the impression that there was more to this songwriter than I’d first imagined. Cut to 1990 and this enigmatic son of a Fort Worth lawyer rolled into my hometown like tumbleweed, to perform in front of a dozen people, a moment I could hardly have believed had it not happened right before my eyes. Much of Townes Van Zandt’s back catalogue is currently available again on vinyl and in the case of Flyin’ Shoes, on special edition blue vinyl, and it has to be said, sounding as good as when I first heard it back in the mid-1980s. In just ten songs, all written by Townes apart from Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love”, easily as hot as the version famously delivered by Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks during the Last Waltz concert and film in the early 1970s, the album captures Townes Van Zandt at his creative best. With the aforementioned Loretta, a breezy love song and a fitting opener, through the desperately melancholic title song “Flyin’ Shoes”, complete with its crying harmonica intro, and then over to side two for “Dollar Bill Blues”, with its curious Pinky and Perky-backing vocal effect, the timeless “Rex’s Blues” and of course the lilting “Pueblo Waltz”, which name checks his good pals Susanna and Guy Clark, always a good thing, we find an artist at his peak. A few months after I saw Townes Van Zandt for the very last time, he was gone, an almost inevitable result of years of abuse, leaving a legacy of music, songs and a reputation of being one of life’s true one-offs. Now that twenty years have gone since the passing of Townes Van Zandt, Flyin’ Shoes has been released as a remastered edition, sounding fresh and ready for new and old ears alike. With extensive sleeve notes taken from the first CD pressing of the album, together with lyric sheet both included in the four-page inner sleeve, the LP version of this album is something to long admire, the songs reminding us all of the enormous contribution Townes Van Zandt has made to the tower of song.