(Before I begin my actual story, I want to make it very clear that I like Townes Van Zandt. I think he’s written some of the most beautiful, sad, wonderful songs music has. But I’ve always felt like his songs sound their best when sung by others. I know I’m not alone in this, either. Many a musician I love and respect has said the same thing. And not a single one of us mean it as a slur to the man or his legacy. Keep this in mind, when you read on and more than likely ask yourself, “Dude, why didn’t you just listen to HIS version of it?”)
A little over a year ago, my wife and I celebrated our one-year anniversary by driving to Madison, WI with two good friends to see Jolie Holland perform. This was more a present for me than anyone else, really, as I’d been a huge fan of Holland’s since her very generous publicity team dropped a very advanced copy of Catalpa into my lap a long time ago. And this show was my first time seeing her live– a first time that wound up being as perfect as I’d hoped.
At some point during the latter half of her set, she performed a cover of Townes Van Zandt‘s “Buckskin Stallion Blues.” I’d never heard the song before. She prefaced it by saying the best version she’d ever heard of it was sung not by Townes, but Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Then she performed it as beautifully as if she’d penned it herself.
The very next morning, I started searching online for an MP3 of her cover. No dice. Surely, at the very least, there would be an endless supply of YouTube clips showing her performing it live, right? Wrong. I had to settle for her suggested “best version I ever heard”– Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s live performance of it. She was on to something. His version was great. But not what I wanted. I decided to put my search to bed for the time being.
Fast forward to the beginning of October. I wake up, thinking about Jolie’s cover of “Buckskin Stallion Blues” for the first time in months, and decide to scour the online world, hoping that time has allowed some audio or video to be posted. Instead, I stumble upon this. And one listen to that short audio snippet of Amy Annelle’s cover of it and I was sold. I needed the MP3. Only the tribute wasn’t going to be released for a few more weeks.
That first day, I listened to it forever. It was as gorgeous as Jolie’s cover was, with this wonderful new bend to it. It was beautiful and sad and a little imperfect, like all the best things are. And her voice… How had I never heard this woman’s voice before?
I still want a version of Jolie Holland’s cover, partly because of the memories attached from that night, and partly because I think Jolie Holland’s one of the best around. But seeing her live on a cold October night over a year ago wound up leading me to Amy Annelle, her unbelievable voice, and her dreamy, easy cover of the song I want. I’d say my search proved more than fruitful.
You can purchase Amy Annelle’s cover of “Buckskin Stallion Blues” and the rest of that Townes Van Zandt tribute starting Monday, October 25 here. And make sure to check out her music here and here. I’m crossing my fingers she shows up in Milwaukee sometime soon. (Hint-hint, Ryan and Ryan.)