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Townes Van Zandt

A Far Cry From Dead – 1999 (Arista Austin)

Reviewed by Brian Steinberg

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CDs by Townes Van Zandt

Fans of hardcore troubadour Townes Van Zandt will be relieved that there's still some music left from this enigmatic artist. Executive produced by his widow, Jeanene, and former Willie Nelson cohort Eric Paul, this breathes new life into the Van Zandt legend.

The author of such timeless entries as "Pancho and Lefty" and "Rex's Blues" resuscitates these old chestnuts and others, like "To Live's To Fly" and "Greensboro Woman." Why buy an album of songs any die-hard will have heard before? Van Zandt is in unusually fine form throughout this disc, in marked contrast to late-career outings like "No Deeper Blue," where the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Also included: two new songs. "Sanitarium Blues" is a haunting spoken-word outing fleshed out with instrumentation (originally performed for a projected album on Geffen with Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, Jeanene Van Zandt says) and "Squash" an on-the-spot creation dedicated to roadkill. Townes Van Zandt died before his songs and reputation could extend beyond die-hard fans and a coterie of like-minded songwriters.