10 best versions of "Waiting Around to Die"

About the list: The song "Waiting Around to Die" is one of Van Zandt’s best known and most-covered songs. It was also the first song Townes van Zandt ever wrote. Watch his moving performance of the song in the documentary "Heartworn Highways". If you're not affected by this, you have a grave emotional disorder. Here are the 10 best versions.



 Cover Album Artist



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The Be Good Tanyas

Perfectly calibrated and attuned version. This interpretation by the Canadian trio was also the first version I heard. Townes van Zandt is so great. To have overlooked him is quite an achivement. But, better late than never. This version stand the test of time. (5:14)


1401739331 65

Redemption & Ruin




The Devil Makes Three

The Devil Makes Three surprised us all with an album with covers. The arrangements on the album are traditional with a newness. This version begins with muffled harmonica. It goes somewhat slower compared with other versions, giving the song more weight.  (3:35)


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José Arcadio is Dead





American Sinner

Virtually unknown American Sinner makes their interpretation with accordion. ”This ain’t your Großmutter’s accordion music". American Sinner brings something new and fresh to the table. (3:39)


watd 4



 Seven Devils




 The Goddamn Gallows

Gutterbilly from the heart of America's Rust Belt. Speed, brute force and a lot of punk attitude are their distinctive trademarks. However, this is maybe their most sensitive moment. Banjodriven and perceptive. Is it compatible with the delicate original? The answer is yes. (2:45)


watd 5







First Aid Kit

The young Swedish sisters make top of the line Americana. In fact, they outshine most American artists. Music seems to come so easy to them. This unreleased song is no exception. It’s overflowing with talented. Listen to it here (opens in a new window). (2:09)


watd 6



The Ballad of Nora Lee





Helldorado is an unknown band from Norway. Their biggest claim to fame is this interpretation of the song. Slow, gothic and elevated. But, their other stuff is also pretty solid. NB, it was in Norway that the second wave of black metal arose. (3:38)



watd 7

 Sonic Ranch




Whitey Morgan and the 78's 

At place 7 we find ourselves on a slippery slope. I'm inclined to include straddle-legged honky-tonk country when it comes to this song. Well arranged, maximalist approach with a lot of instruments and care in all details makes me succumb. I forgive him. (4:31)


watd 8



You've Got Nothing to Lose (B-side ep)




Michael Kiwanuka

Further down the slippery slope. Michael Kiwanuka is a British soul musician. Normally Townes van Zandt and soul music don't mix very well. This version forces its way into no 8 due the dark streak in the song. But to release it as a B-side is an abomination. (3:39)


watd 9







The Lemonheads

Even further down the slippery slope. Lemonheads are an alternative rock band. On their latest album, Varshons, they included this version. I hesitated a long time if this version really had all that is required. Still not entirely sure. (2:22)


watd 10



The Wanderings of the Avener




 The Avener

Last and also least. The French deep house and electro music producer Tristan Casara a.k.a The Avener samples The Be Good Tanyas. That’s why this version is included. Arty-farty? Decide for yourself, what is the value added? (4:18)


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