Music often sounds more resonant when it's overshadowed by death: From Hole's Live Through This, released five days after the suicide of Kurt Cobain, to posthumous albums by Jeff Buckley, For Squirrels, and several prominent rappers, the decade has seen many song lyrics take on added meaning amid tragedy. Drowning victim Buckley's "Stay with me under these waves tonight" and car-crash victim (and For Squirrels singer) Jack Vigliatura's "Send me off to the morgue / I'm ready to be buried" are just two morbid examples, but neither compares to the more deliberately chilling A Far Cry From Dead, the title of a posthumously assembled, career-spanning collection of studio-doctored re-recordings by the late Texas singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt. On Jan. 1, 1997, Van Zandt, the brilliant composer behind such classic songs as "Pancho And Lefty," died at 52 having never achieved a hit as a singer, perhaps due to his unassuming presence and plain, detached delivery. But A Far Cry From Dead amply displays his brilliance on all fronts, using posthumous studio polish and musical accompaniment to just barely flesh out his deceptively simple songwriting. "Waitin' 'Round To Die" has gained the most post-death resonance, but everything here—from the reflective ballad "Tower Song" to the easygoing "Greensboro Woman," to "Pancho And Lefty," to the playful album-closer "Squash"—would possess subtle, bittersweet beauty even without the added perspective brought about by tragedy. Van Zandt's gift, and his likely commercial downfall, was his ability to write songs that don't fully sink in until you're done listening to them. If you're new to Van Zandt's music, pick up A Far Cry From Dead and spend some time with its songs, many of which were classics in certain circles before his death. You won't be disappointed.

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