Can a record change your life?

The esteemed David Hepworth recently wrote a blog post generally decrying the idea that a record might change your life.  I thought about this for a while and then decided that my initial reaction was correct, and that reaction was “Bollocks!”.  There’s a certainly an issue about the over-praising of records, gigs and experiences generally and there’s also the point that life-changing records should be few and far between, maybe only one for the vast majority of people. But they do exist.

 One that changed my life was legendary Texas singer-songwriter Townes van Zandt’s Live At The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas.  It’s a warts and all recording of a sold out show that features all the tropes that van Zandt fans will recognise.  Bad jokes, slightly uncomfortable between-song patter, fairly rudimentary guitar playing and some of the finest songs ever written.  It has a real sense of “liveness”, unlikely so many live records, and you do feel as though you’re there in the room.  All of which make it a great album but not a life-changer.  What elevates it to life-changing for me is my reaction to it.  It was my first exposure to Americana and that style of performing and because I loved it so much Americana became what I spent my money on.  A long time later (and together with another life-changing record, this time traditional folk, but that’s another post) that path led to writing about it, first for americana-uk, then magazines, and then to promoting gigs featuring it.  When I’m not working that’s what I do these days.  It is my life, pretty much.

 Would I have followed that path without hearing that album?  Possibly.  Perhaps the same revelation might have been achieved by a different record.  But it wasn’t.  It was Townes, and it changed my life.

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