Abnormal was released one year after the 1997 death of Townes Van Zandt. Abnormal is a live acoustic release featuring songs recorded throughout Europe, and showcasing songs from throughout his career. Many fans prefer this stripped-down setting for Van Zandt's music: intimate, personal, and palpable; there is no hiding the sorrow that exudes from these songs. These are sad songs, folks, and Van Zandt doesn't dress them up as anything else. Delivered through his troubadour-weary voice and guitar, even the lighthearted "Shrimp Song" sounds like a eulogy. The disc ends with "Old Shep," a song so sad that Van Zandt says it "takes the cake." He barely gets through the song, stopping every few lines to regain his composure. Even though most of his music is sad, it is not sentimental. You get the sense that, like Hank Williams before him, Van Zandt means what he sings, and that honesty is why fans gravitate toward him. Abnormal is not the best Townes Van Zandt album by far, but it will not disappoint those who already love him. With Van Zandt gone, these stray recordings are all we have left.
AllMusic Review by Dan Lee