Townes Van Zandt has been dead for just over 20 years, but the famed Texan continues to have a profound impact on other musicians, including four who will pay homage to him April 29 at The Sentient Bean.
"Many people can slap a song together - some chords, a certain narrative, and some colorful language - but taking apiece of poetry and putting it to a melody is something else," said show organizer Brandon Nelson McCoy, who will be joined on stage by Jason Bible, Matt Eckstine and A.M. Rodriguez.
"But [Van Zandt] could also play the storyteller and draw you into the song," McCoy continued. "In a song like 'Marie,' for example, you really feel the heartache of the lives of those drifters and the sadness of their particular reality."
McCoy said the "unique blend of poetry and narrative" is at the heart of Van Zandt's genius.
When he was around 21, McCoy first became aware of Van Zandt's music and was profoundly inspired by it.
"I had always messed around with writing songs but around that time I had decided I wanted to really give it a go - and I found intense inspiration in the honesty of Townes and his music," McCoy said. "There's something about those songs that sinks its teeth into you and doesn't let you go. It shakes you and draws blood. You feel it."
McCoy, who organized a Townes Van Zandt tribute show years ago, moved back to Savannah in 2016 and connected with Rodriguez, who organizes songwriter showcases and plays regular Friday happy hour gigs at The Jinx. McCoy said he also has plans to organize a similar tribute to the late Guy Clark.
"A.M. and I share a big love of the Texas brand of songwriting and it just dawned on me that there's still interest inTownes down here - maybe now more than ever - and it seemed like a good thing to try to put together," McCoy said.
The evening's format will feature separate sets from the performers, with each playing a few Van Zandt songs, a cover from another Texas songwriter who was part of Van Zandt's scene and an original song inspired by Van Zandt.
Audience donations will benefit Deep Center - a fitting choice given the nonprofit's commitment to creative expression.
"As an educator myself, in English nonetheless, I feel very strongly about the importance of self-expression and education and how intertwined those two things are with empowerment," McCoy said. "And as far as the connection to songwriting, the best songs are poems anyways."
Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Townes Van Zandt Tribute Night
When: 8-10 p.m. April 29
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.
Cost: Donations accepted for Deep Center