Original Outlaw Country era survivor revisits songs written on the global hippy trail.
The story of Daniel Antopolsky’s friendship with Townes Van Zandt and his brief but formative time at the emergence of what became known as Outlaw Country has already been featured in AUK. These days Antopolsky lives a quiet life on a farm in France but in 2015 he was encouraged to reconnect with the music scene by sharing some of the huge collection of songs he’d written since he first took off on his hippy wanderings. Since then he’s continued digging through a treasure trove of notebooks full of lyrics he wrote during that time, recording them and releasing them into the world.
The songs on ‘Old Timey, Soulful, Hippy-Dippy, Flower Child Songs from the Cosmos… Wow! (Unheard Songs of the Early 1970s, Part Two)’ reach back almost half a century and there’s something defiantly unrefined in how he handles these songs. He’s self-deprecating about his own guitar playing but he has more than enough ability to mix up the guitar styles across the album, successfully keeping things interesting with the overall quality of his playing.
Written on the road, the lyrics can sometimes come across a bit like scribbled postcards from a very different time, from exotic locations and places as varied as Laos, Thailand, Finland and the Paulua Valley in Hawaii. They are resolutely upbeat, optimistic and joyful, and that’s just how Antopolsky likes it. There’s nothing that sounds overly polished or processed in his words. That can be a weakness but also, undoubtedly, it’s a major part of the overall charm. It was interesting to listen to Antopolsky’s songs and compare them to the early songs of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, the two other songwriters he’s pictured with in that iconic picture on Clark’s front porch back circa 1972. Listening to Van Zandt and Clark, it’s striking how, generally, they both leave so much more space around their phrasing, whereas Antopolsky’s lyrics seem to tumble out, densely packing his songs with vibrant and evocative imagery, idiosyncratic flights of fancy and so much more.
Maybe it was this relentless energy, enthusiasm and restless spirit that made him seem an ill-fit for the country music business back in the 1970s. But things are different now. Thanks to the wonders of low-cost, high-quality, home recording that’s allowed him to make his last few albums without having to leave his beloved farm, coupled with the power of the internet to connect his music to an international audience who still value stripped-back folky-country songs and undimmed positivity, now seems like the ideal time for Antopolsky to be sharing his songs. In doing so, he’s allowing us all a glimpse into what already feels like a long-ago era.
If you’re a fan of outlaw country, you might want to take a listen to some songs from a man who took a very, very different road, then drove right off the grid and stayed there.