Billy Strings Debuts Townes Van Zandt Covers In Houston

Billy Strings kicked off a three-night run through Texas on Thursday night at White Oak Music Hall in Houston. The guitarist and his band debuted two songs from Townes Van Zandt and also fit in an additional staple from the late great Texas singer-songwriter who lived and performed in Houston.

Billy launched the show with “Everything’s The Same” from his Grammy-winning 2019 album, Home (Billy recently received another Grammy nod for his 2021 album Renewal). Strings then slid into a covers segment that began with John Hartford’s “I’m Still Here,” followed by The Monkee’s recorded “Last Train To Clarksville” followed by Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freight Liner Blues,” which saw Billy and banjo player Billy Failing swapping verses. An interesting side note, the late great Townes Van Zandt lived in the Clarksville neighborhood in Austin, Texas. Billy is in Austin tonight.

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Strings got the second set underway with a jaw-dropping guitar intro to Keith Allison’s “Freeborn Man” followed by the stellar Rewneal track, “Ths Old World.” The second set also saw covers of the Doc Watson popularized bluegrass standards “Train That Carried My Girl From Town” and “Shady Grove” as well as the Gordon Lightfoot-penned, Tony Rice-recorded “Cold On The Shoulder.” Renewal’s “On The Line” then led into The Stanley Brothers’ “Train 45″ to complete a train trifecta.

Billy Strings then unveiled the full-band debut of Townes’ “Two Girls.” Billy has played the song a handful of times solo during his concerts but the Houston play appears to be the first with Failing, mandolinist Jarrod Walker and bassist Royal Masat in a live setting. Strings closed out the set with a pairing of Bill Emerson’s “Home Of The Red Fox” and Stanley Brothers’ “Little Maggie.”

Billy Strings returned to encore with another Van Zandt debut, “Fraternity Blues.” The song, along with the two other Townes numbers, all appear on Van Zandt’s landmark 1977 live double LP, Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas. The Dillards bluegrass classic “The Old Home Place” would bring the evening to a close.

Watch fan-shot clips of “Freeborn Man” and “The Train That Carried My Girl From Town” below:

Setlist (via Billy Strings Setlist Page)

Set One: Everything’s the Same, I’m Still Here > Last Train to Clarksville > White Freightliner Blues > Running, Enough to Leave, Sledd Ridin’, Away From the Mire, Doin My Time, Long Forgotten Dream, Airmail Special, The Gold Rush

Set Two: Freeborn Man, This Old World, Train That Carried My Girl From Town > Black Mountain Rag, Shady Grove, Home, Cold On the Shoulder, On The Line > Train 45, Two Girls (1), Home of the Red Fox > Little Maggie

Encore: Fraternity Blues(2), Old Home Place

Notes:

(1) FTP with the full band

(2) FTP – Townes Van Zandt