In honor of Townes Van Zandt’s would-have-been 79th birthday, we asked Dallas Burrow (a TVZ devotee) to share one of his favorite tunes from one of the greatest songwriters– if not the greatest– to ever put boots to earth!
Asking what my favorite Townes Van Zandt song is, is like asking Bob Dylan to give twenty-five words or less on his final thoughts about Woody Guthrie.
Not to compare myself to Bob– or Townes to Woody– but just to the depth of admiration I have for Townes and his work. It’s really a hard choice to pick just one song because there are so many moods and facets of his songs that on a given day might be the right song for the moment. That said, if I had to pick just one, right now, I would have to go with the timeless five-card stud poker tune “Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold”.
There is just so much to unpack. The sheer cerebral onslaught and rapid-fire poetic style, the mastery of language and meter that he exhibits– the vivid imagery draped over that quintessential Texas-style fingerpicking, for my money, it just doesn’t get any better.
My friend Bryan Duckworth, who played fiddle for Robert Earl [Keen], tells me that you can take a deck of cards and actually play through the game described in the song. It’s a real hand that can be played out. Try and wrap your mind around that.
It so happens that this is the first song written by another soul which I have ever recorded as well, and it will be on my forthcoming album Blood Brothers due out this June, named so because of the true story of my father becoming blood brothers with Townes back in the early ’70s outside of Nashville when they cut their arms one wild Tennessee night. It took me a good six months to a year to learn it. I had to write the words out by hand over and over until it was etched into my mind.