Townes Van Zandt has become something of an icon over the past few years, prompting the reissue of the Texas troubadour's first six albums. "For the Sake of the Song," his eagerly anticipated 1968 debut, proved that the privileged kid songwriter who turned his back on his parents' riches lived up to the hype. The songs are filled with drifters, addicts and jilted lovers. His pen was sharp even at this early age, but also unfortunately ominous as he introduces his "friend" codeine that "don't steal or cheat or drink or lie" in "Waitin' Around to Die." The in-vogue wall-of-sound mush of the era tends to sugarcoat the starkness, and he even appears to fall victim to his influences (Glen Campbell, Arlo Guthrie) at times. But the lived-in lyrics that would become his trademark reveal an unnatural maturity for a 24-year-old, and he would eventually strip several of these numbers to the bare essentials for later albums. His "friend" contributed to his early death at 52, but "For the Sake of the Song" shows Townes wasn't waiting around for anything.
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