Sample of the Week #4 – Townes Van Zandt

An intro to Townes Van Zandt

Rather than recommending something easy to chop up, this week’s SOTW will marks a very different sample choice. Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997) was the embodiment of the Americana drenched singer-songwriter. Van Zandt’s discography spans 10 albums and my pick comes from his third studio album, the self-titled Townes Van Zandt.

The third track on that album is Waiting ‘Round to Die. As the title would imply this is a very somber number. The track opens with Van Zandt’s beautiful finger picked guitar intro. I don’t know about you but I can immediately conjure all manner of old western imagery. The song however is much more than that. It tells a very morose tale of downtrodden drifter who discuses his various woes. From gambling, boozing, a troubled upbringing, and crime. All the way up to its inevitable conclusion. I won’t do Van Zandt the injustice of butchering his lyrics since they speak so much better for themselves than I ever could.

Sometimes I don't know where
This dirty road is taking me
Sometimes I don't even know the reason why
But I guess I keep a-gamblin'
Lots of booze and lots of ramblin'
Well it's easier than just a-waitin' around to die

Lyrics aside, instrumentation wise the song is sparse. Van Zandt is accompanied by a kick drum that fills in the background in an almost galloping manner. More accurately put it sounds like an echo of a gallop, a memory of travels long since past. Once verse 3 rolls in, a harmonic joins in to tie the old west motif together. The song is a sad one, one that really brings out the sentimentality if you let it. If you enjoyed the song on its own I recommend checking out this live solo performance by Van Zandt form the documentary Heartworn Hightways.

I’ve sampled Van Zandt before, from this very album in fact. I reckon that a very creative producer could chop this one up in a pretty sick manner. Especially that opening with just his finger-picking would sound pretty dope against some boom bap drums but that’s just one approach. 

Thanks for indulging my folk/country tastes this week. Now go out there and sample something unique.


RIP Townes Van Zandt.



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