Pancho and Lefty

A cover of Townes van Zandt’s border bandito song “Pancho and Lefty.” Van Zandt was one of the great Texas songwriters of the 1960s-1980s, of roughly the same generation as Guy Clark and Willis Alan Ramsey. I picture this song taking place on the Mexican border near the beginning of the twentieth century at a time when trains and cars overlapped with horses and wagons. We never really get a clear picture of what Pancho and Lefty actually did or how they fell out (though the implication seems to be that Lefty betrayed Pancho), but van Zandt’s terse lines paint evocative, almost cinematic pictures.

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard made the song famous during the 1980s with their cover of it, and I was first exposed to the song through their version. I later discovered van Zandt’s original and much prefer it, though my own version probably borrows indiscriminately from both. (more…)

I Would Change My Life

Another gem from Texas songwriter Robert Earl Keen, Jr. This is from one of his earlier albums. At the time he was known mostly for drunken party songs like “The Road Goes on Forever.” Many people never got past those songs to see Keen’s versatility and skill as a songwriter. I particularly love the rhythm of the words in the beginning of the second verse: “I have spent my hours on some misbegotten dreams/I have spent my money on some foolish-hearted things/and I have spent my memories on old and bitter wine.”

As always, enjoy and feel free to share! (more…)

L.A. Freeway

Guy Clark was one of the great songwriters of the last fifty years. His music shaped the Texas singer-songwriter scene alongside other worthies such as Steven Fromholz, Townes Van Zandt, Willis Alan Ramsey and more recent musicians such as Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett. In the late 1960s, Guy and his wife Susanna moved to L.A., but it didn’t work out there. They ultimately settled in Nashville, though Guy maintained strong connections in Texas throughout his career.

Guy passed away this summer after many years of health issues. He leaves a towering legacy among American songwriters. This song is one of my favorites of his. (more…)

Mariano

I posted this on YouTube a few months ago, but I’m adding onto this site as well.  If you’ve seen it, you can keep scrolling.  If not, stop and listen.

This is a cover of a song by the great Texas songwriter Robert Earl Keen, Jr.  Keen is an underrated songwriter who has a marvelous ability to describe small towns, rural life, and ordinary people.  At his best, he is capable of writing deeply poetic lyrics that gave a real insight into the human condition.  This song is my favorite of his.  His portrayal of Mariano reminds me of countless guys I’ve known over the years:  hardworking men trying to make a better life for themselves and their families despite their circumstances.

Fifteen years ago, I was playing open mic nights in Oklahoma City a couple of times a week.  This song was a pretty regular feature in my set.

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