Personnel: Townes Van Zandt (vocals, guitar); Philip Donnelly (guitar, percussion); Pete Cumins (guitar); Percy Robinson (steel guitar); Brendan Reagan (mandolin, bouzouki); Paul Kelly (fiddle); Brian Meehan (clarinet, tin whistle, tenor saxophone); Declan Masterson (whistle, Uilleann pipes); Donovan (harmonica); Mairtin O'Connor (accordion); Adrian Foley (tuba); Brendan Hayes (piano, harmonium, organ, keyboards, baby chimes); Sven Buick (bass); Robbie Brennan, Fran Breen (drums).
Recorded at Xeric Studios, Limerick, Ireland.
All songs written by Townes Van Zandt.
Photographer: Roy Tee.
Van Zandt's final studio effort came after a long recording layoff, and it's plain he used the time wisely. NO DEEPER BLUE contains some of the Texas troubadour's finest compositions. Things kick off with the bleak minor-key lament "A Song For," which is Townes in classic dark-night-of-the-soul mode. The sizzling "Blaze's Blue" is a jumping blues tune with a delightfully unhinged vocal and a hard-hitting arrangement based on a simple, irresistible blues riff. "The Hole" is a harrowing recitation over sophisticated, atmospheric accompaniment, detailing a man's struggle with his own inner demons.
Phillip Donnelly's production is often much more contemporary-sounding than Van Zandt's usual countryish back-up, but the arrangements seem inventive rather than incongruous. NO DEEPER BLUE is an effective swan song for the late, great singer-songwriter. The highlight is undoubtedly "Marie," a masterfully written narrative about a homeless couple, told in the first person and utterly devoid of sentimentality. Its effect is shattering, placing it easily among the best songs Van Zandt has ever written. Even if the rest of the album weren't as good as it is, "Marie" would make it indispensable.
Rolling Stone (3/23/95, p.124) - "...A self-confessed rambler and loner--and one of the greatest songwriters of his generation--Van Zandt is a nonstarter in the American art of self-promotion. NO DEEPER BLUE scans like a collection of short stories about life on the margins of the American dream..."
Option (3-4/95, pp.143-145) - "...He's the muse who's feeding everyone else the good lines, and he makes it sound so easy you'd almost overlook his strengths."