Unheard Studio Sessions and Demos
The word "demo" is short for "demonstration," which is to say, the opposite of "performance" or "embodiment of a song's intrinsic musicality." It's a sort of trying out and, true to the form of what Townes thought he was doing at the time, there are stumbles and fumbles. There are places (as in "You Are Not Needed Now") where his strumming hand and fretting hand and voice all lose each other for a half-beat before finding each other again as he plows ahead through the song.
There are rhythms and melodies and instrumental experiments which never found their way onto the finished product - most likely because either Townes or his producer thought them inadequate at the time.
This is all to say that, for mistakes and misses and the places where Van Zandt and those around him felt he was falling a little short to be worth a final product, it's easy to see the bar of his talent was freakishly high. As the liner notes implicate, there is an incredible amount of talent and skill that go into making songs like these sound effortless.
Pictures from Life's Other Side
The recordings on Sunshine Boy were most likely made during the recording of High, Low, and In-Between (compare prices) and The Late Great Townes Van Zandt (compare prices). If you're curious about this album but aren't yet familiar with Van Zandt's work, I'd recommend grabbing both those records before delving into Sunshine Boy. The versions here are not always fully realized, though they are often impressive and as haunting as what wound up on the albums.
The "Pancho and Lefty" on Sunshine Boy, for example, feels almost bouncy and danceable without the strings and horns which accompanied the final album version. The addition of those two elements stretched the tune out, added layers which gave it the shadows and mystery for which it's know. The version here would probably still sock a newcomer, but is made infinitely more interesting by coming at it with the knowledge of how the song resonated on The Late Great and the versions recorded by Emmylou Harris and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.
Regardless, as stated above, this album is likely to impress the heck out of anyone who picks it up. For long-time fans, though, it provides for a deeper, richer understanding of one of the best singer-songwriters to have ever entered the craft.