Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions & Demos 1971–1972 by Townes Van Zandt

Grade: B+

Just when you thought there couldn’t be another posthumous Townes Van Zandt release, that all of his music in every possible configuration had been released, another album has surfaced. But it’s OK, because, from time to time, country music and the world needs to be reminded of just what an incredible poet, storyteller and songwriter Townes Van Zandt was.

Sunshine Boy is an 18-track double disc of both popular and lesser-known previously unissued tracks, mostly written by Townes, but not entirely. One disc is dedicated to studio sessions, while the other is demos, but both showcase the songs with less slick production, allowing the lyric and Townes’ raggedly effortless vocal to shine. There are a few songs that repeat on both discs, but when they’re as beautifully melodic and poetic as “To Live Is to Fly,” recently covered by Wade Bowen and Guy Clark, you don’t mind. Likewise, the popular “You Are Not Needed Now” has more of an ache when presented in this very scaled-back manner. And for those less familiar with Townes’ work, his “Pancho and Lefty,” made famous by the Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard duet, is included without strings and horns. 

With the amount of content available, making a double disc seems unnecessary, likewise the inclusion of songs written by anyone other than Townes. But the album is beautifully sequenced, making it impossible to press “stop” once you’ve started.

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