365 Days of Album Recommendations – Sep 8

Townes Van Zandt – For The Sake Of The Song


I got to spend an afternoon in Nashville with Jack Clement once. It was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe it was him. Among other things, we talked about this album, and all the arguments over whether it was over-produced. As he has often done publicly, he reiterated his concession that he may have overdone it a bit. I disagreed. I like it just as it is.

As far as I’m concerned, with songs this good, there IS no right production touch. They contain so much, and every setting highlights different facets. When Townes played ’em solo, certain things moved to the fore, other things receded. As they are here, they show other sides of their personalities.

In his book A Grief Observed, written after his wife passed, C.S. Lewis talks about his anger at himself for not being able to hold a single image of his wife in his mind, convinced his love for her must be flawed. He ultimately comes to console himself through realizing that his knowledge of her was so nuanced, that how could a single image possibly even exist, that could show her in her full measure? Of course he couldn’t hold a single image. There wasn’t one.

That’s how I feel about these songs. How could one performance, one recording, one arrangement, possibly hold all they contain? When I hear these songs, I experience the production the way I might a dress on my missus; she looks lovely, I am reminded of something special about her, but it’s just the dress, it’s not the totality of HER.

Townes explains this all in the title song:

Maybe she just has to sing, for the sake of the song
And who do I think that I am to decide that she’s wrong?

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