The late Townes Van Zandt was the best songwriter in the whole wide world, Steve Earle said in an oft-cited quote, “and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Seventeen years after Van Zandt’s death, the Americana artists who followed in his wake still speak of him the way rockers invoke John Lennon or Jimi Hendrix — as a standard bearer who represents a pinnacle of credibility and craft.
Had he been the coffee-table orating type, however, whose name would Van Zandt have declared?
“Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say Mozart, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan, and Dave Olney,” Van Zandt wrote. “Dave Olney is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard — and that’s true. I mean that from my heart.”