For the first time ever, Townes Van Zandt’s Grammy-nominated posthumous 1999 release
A Far Cry From Dead will see a vinyl release. Van Zandt recorded the vocal and guitar takes for the album from the late 80s through the early 90s at Texhoma Music Group Studio, the late singer’s next door neighbor’s home studio in Nashville, and Jack Clement’s Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa. Townes left the tapes to his widow, Jeanene Van Zandt, who worked with producer Eric Paul to bring the songs to life with a full band including keyboard player Larry Knechtel ( The Beach Boys, Ray Charles, the Doors, The Birds, Elvis Presley), percussionist Kenny Malone (Ray Charles, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, etc.), and Charlie McCoy (Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings) among others.
A Far Cry From Dead was the first of Townes’ records to be released on a major label, though the sordid story of its rise and fall is one of many music industry fumbles in the meeting of the CD and early internet era at the turn of the century. That story is outlined by Jeanene Van Zandt below. What was lauded by many critics at the time as some of Townes’ finest vocal work recorded will finally see a new release in the hands of the legendary songwriters’ family. A Far Cry From Dead will be re-issued on vinyl by TVZ Records, the label owned and operated by the Van Zandt family, and distributed by Fat Possum Records on April 21st.
I don’t think that I’m going to benefit from anything on this earth.
If you have love on the earth, that seems to be number one.
You know, there’s food, water, air & love.
And love is just basically heartbreak.
Humans can’t live in the present, like animals do. Humans are always thinking about the future or the past. So, it’s a veil of tears, man. I don’t know of anything that’s going to benefit me except more love. I just need an overwhelming amount of love. And a nap. Mostly, a nap.”
– Townes Van Zandt
“When we were making Far Cry, we worked mostly on weekends and Holidays to get the studio cheaper. We kept the doors locked and worked in secret from the public. So, it didn’t take long for a buzz to start around Music Row and the new subdivision at Arista, Arista Austin, was just getting off the ground and they heard that Eric Paul was working with me on something Townes.
The day we put the finishing touches on the record and were done, Eric asked me, what are you going to do with it, who are you going to pitch it to?
“I said, “Townes will send me the right people… let’s go to lunch.”
As we were walking into the restaurant Eric’s flip phone rang and it was Scott Robinson from Arista Austin asking about the project and asking that he bring it to them first, so he took it to them the next day, a Friday. Early Monday Scott called and said they wanted it.
Townes and I had a pact that his records would never be sold outright ever again, and we had been putting them out under limited licenses. So, I told them it would have to be a license and I would get it back. We settled on 20 years, when we usually did 3 to 5 years.
The record came out and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Folk Album of the Year. We lost to Bob Dylan, again.
The first single “Ain’t Leavin’ Your Love” was the first song Townes wrote for me. It was shooting up the Americana Charts and was #13 with a bullet. It was playing in my car, it was playing when I went into my convenience store… it was so exciting. Townes had never gotten airplay like this!
Arista was ready to release a second single, “To Live’s to Fly,” and I went down to their office to celebrate and help pack up CDs to send out when the phone rang in Scott’s office. When he came out almost in tears, everything changed. He said Germany called (the owners) and said they were shutting down his division and to close up shop immediately.
People were crying, and I was confused. What just happened!?!
It’s over they said and gave me all the promo materials and put it on a cart and loaded it into my car.
The record had a 3 month life, only on CD. SONY took it over and put it in their record club division (in the basement). After many years I finally convinced them to put it up for download, shortly afterward we got the opening track with “Dollar Bill Blues” for the movie “Hell or High Water”. Shortly thereafter the license ran out and it was returned to me.”
Townes Van Zandt
A Far Cry From Dead
Release Date: April 21, 2023
1. Dollar Bill Blues
2. To Live’s To Fly
3. Rex’s Blues
4. Sanitarium Blues
5. Ain’t Leavin’ Your Love
6. Greensboro Woman
1. Snake Mountain Blues
2. Pancho and Lefty
3. For The Sake of the Song
4. Waitin’ ‘Round To Die
5. Many A Fine Lady
6. Tower Song