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It's a Definite Slice: Heartworn Highways

Posted by Miss Ess, May 1, 2007 07:17pm | Post a Comment
This weekend I re-watched a favorite of mine, Heartworn Highways. It's a documtownes van zandt heartworn highwaysentary about the Austin Music Scene in the 1970s. It came out on DVD only a couple of years ago and the DVD comes with over an hour of extras, all of which are well worthwhile. 

My favorite parts of the movie all involve Mr. Townes Van Zandt.  Van Zandt was a folk singer from Texas who wrote some of (as far as I am concerned) the finest songs around. He was also a total character, a total alcoholic/addict and a total genius. I am sure I will devote some other blog to the life and times of TVZ, but for now, you should check out his song, "Waitin' Around to Die" as performed in Heartworn Highways:


It's pretty heartbreaking for me, with Townes' blacksmith neighbor Uncle Seymour Washington crumpling and crying just listening to Townes' song. The film is mainly made up of moments that feel close at least to something authentic and real, and this performance is really the pinnacle moment of the film for me.

Townes is also shown in the film hanging out near his trailer with the essentials: his gun, his dogs, his whiskey and his girl Cindy. Good times.

Some of the other musicians in the film include Guy Clark, Steve Young, Steve Earle, rhinestone cowboy david allen coeRodney Crowell, and, hilariously, David Allan Coe, who rocks a prison in his complete Rhinestone Cowboy garb. (Speaking of moments that are real and true and all that...) There he is, playing in the penitentiary in front of all these inmates dressed in nothing but their prison jumpsuits, and he's decked in rhinestone bedazzled EVERTHING, complete with huge earrings and a gigantor belt that says his name in sparkling diamonds. He spends a good amount of time trying to relate to the inmates, telling them about his brief prison stay when he was 18 and trying to rally their ire toward the guards by telling them how the guards all drive Cadillacs. It's pretty over the top, to say the least. He's like Marky Mark, I mean, serious actor Mark Wahlberg, trying to convince the homies he's hard cause he stayed in the pen for a couple of days.....geez. Oh and speaking of being hard, David Allan Coe has that hipster star tattoo right on his neck.  he predated all y'all!

Anyway other great moments include an epically long jam session between Steve Young,guy susanna clark Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Susanna Clark and others that winds on and on but (at least for me) never loses speed. The musicians are all sitting around a table decked with the entrails of debaucherous evening: cigarettes strewn everywhere, bottles emptied and half full, beer cans and several kerosene lanterns, and they are singing their drunken hearts out, trading leads and singing older songs they all know. It all culminates in a wasted but enjoyable version of "Silent Night," since it is apparently Christmas time.

The movie to me in a way is really about the death of the cowboy, or the image of the cowboy way of life, in America. Sure it is still possible to live parts of that lifestyle, but the frontier no longer exists in the manner it once did. Lawlessness is no longer an option. The farmer/rancher is being run off of his land. Things just ain't like they used to be. These folks are among the last to live like outlaws, maybe even if it was just through their music. And this film is a true slice of nostalgia.

Relevant Tags

Heartworn Highways (1), Townes Van Zandt (5), Guy Clark (1), David Allan Coe (2)