Rolling Stone (8/5/99, p.70) - 3 1/2 stars (out of 5) - "...For those not yet familiar with Van Zandt's work [it] is a fine place to start; for the rest of us, it's a powerful coda."
Spin (8/99, p.160) - 7 out of 10 - "...completists will kvell, the (posthumous) production beats kareoke, and for novices, it's a fine meet-and-greet...offers new clues about why this oracular talent was so fitful and elusive..."
Entertainment Weekly (7/9/99, p.78) - "...gives fans inspired new versions of classics...plus a previously unreleased gem, the terrifying 'Sanitarium Blues'. The best introduction yet to this master craftsman's dour magic." - Rating: A
Dirty Linen (2-3/00, p.60) - "...The singing is excellent throughout and mixed perfectly. The well-worn songs remind us of the magnificent talent we lost when [he] died....[A FAR CRY] is finely crafted..."
Mojo (Publisher) (7/99, p.105) - "...First-rate songs, lyrically and melodically. Van Zandt has rarely sounded better - dry, weathered, intimate and convincing - and the playing is excellent...with an effortlessness and sensitivity hard to believe..."
Personnel: Townes Van Zandt (vocals, acoustic guitar); Michael Spriggs (acoustic, F-hole acoustic & 12-string guitars, dobro, tipple); Richard Bennett (tremolo, Rickenbacker, Danelectro, Spanish & Gretch guitars); Russ Hicks (steel guitar); Jim Calvin (banjo); Charlie McCoy (harmonica, vibraphone); Susie Monick (squeeze box); Larry Knechtel (piano, Hammond B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer piano); Bob Wray (bass); Craig Krampf (drums, triangle, cymbals, tambourine, bells); Kenny Malone (drums, congas, shaker, percussion).
Recorded at Texhoma Music Group Studio and Jack Clement's Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa, Nashville between 1989 and 1996; Imagine Studio, Nashville, Tennessee in 1998. Includes liner notes by Townes Van Zandt.
All tracks have been digitally mastered using HDCD technology.
The melancholic troubadour/poet whose name was legend in Nashville and Austin, Townes Van Zant inspired a generation of progressive country artists such as Lyle Lovett and Richard Buckner. His untimely passing left a void that A FAR CRY FROM DEAD attempts to fill. Consisting mostly of new versions of classic Van Zandt songs, the album was constructed by overdubbing a crack country-rock band onto vocal-and-guitar tracks recorded by Townes in '90s and late-'80s.
The result is a successful updating of the Van Zandt catalog, the excesses of his early albums replaced by a leaner, meaner aesthetic more in keeping with his own uncompromising approach. Key tracks like "To Live's To Fly" and "For The Sake of the Song" combine rapturous flights of poetic imagery with an earthy, hard-bitten sensibility and a gift for simple, unforgettable melodies. The two previously unheard songs, "Squash" and "Sanitarium Blues," are slight compared to the majesty of their neighbors, but Van Zandt fans should be grateful for whatever they can get in the way of new material.