Nicole Higgins 6-14-2012
FIRSTS image by sharpner/shutterstock with illustration by Cathleen Falsani.

FIRSTS image by sharpner/shutterstock with illustration by Cathleen Falsani.

I was thirteen years old, a freshman in high school. This was my first mission trip – a week of working in an elementary school in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

Inner-city urban experience, meet private-school-raised girl.

School grounds within the walls of my church, meet bars and constant police surveillance.

The students we were going to serve looked a lot like me, but I could not feel further from their experience 

Joshua Witchger 6-13-2012

Editor's Note: This is the first post in a series called FIRSTS, where some of us take a look at classic works of art, music, film and literature for the first time. We hope that a fresh perspective on these influential pop-cultural artifacts will inspire discussion and interest that outlasts the shelf-life of daily reviews.

Townes Van Zandt
The Late Great Townes Van Zandt (1972)

Townes Van Zandt isn’t a songwriter I’ve heard many people praise (or even acknowledge, really.) But the few people I know who love him are folks with musical tastes I admire and respect.

One is my college roommate’s brother, who introduced both of us to the great Tom Waits during my junior year.

Another is a friend who’s always following a new dream, be it dropping out of school to travel, or finding work on farms and in coffee shops.    

Both are people I’d describe as earthy and natural — devotees to folk tunes with lyrics that transcend contexts, offering timeless truths that smirk at popular culture’s music of cheap love and consumer-driven individuality.

So, this week I began listening to an album that my musical mentors hold dear  — and one that I’ve never heard laid ears on before — Townes Van Zandt’s 1972 LP The Late Great Townes Van Zandt.