Recorded back in 1973, this album still sounds fresher than any other country release you’re likely to hear this year
Having settled in at Johnny Cash’s studio in 1973, Chris Gantry recorded an album that expanded upon his already individual variety of country music. At The House Of Cash didn’t find a backer in the Nashville of its day, seen as too far out for the ears of the age. It’s not as if the Music City of Luke Bryan and Keith Urban is now a radical place, but there are plenty of listeners far and wide who will welcome the release of this lost gem which brings together country, folk, psychedelia and the influence of the Beat Generation.
Away Away sets the tone for the record, matching sci-fi effects with Gantry’s yearning vocals and there’s plenty of melody underneath the song’s sonic bonnet. Different has a more spiritual feel, encased as it is inside an uplifting soundscape. So far so good, but Tear is the track where the true extent of Gantry’s vision reveals itself. A spoken word stream of consciousness is backed by what feels like a full orchestra playing a trippier version of Prokofiev’s Peter And The Wolf. The line “Never are you fixed but rather always going on” could be the album’s mantra as what follows are songs such as the bluesy Dreamin’ Of A Leavin Train, the kaleidoscopic ballad Flower Of The Mountain and poetry-infused Hatred For Feeny. That these styles sound comfortable together is somewhat miraculous, matching the myriad personality traits of their creator.
The album’s penultimate song finds everything converging into one magical moment. In the role of a troubadour on the cosmic highway, Gantry unleashes a song which should be a standard for the outlaws and the outsiders who have helped make country music so interesting over the decades. It also serves as a reminder of his immense talent.
We’ll never know why this album wasn’t considered suitable for release back in the day; instead we should just be thankful that we finally get to indulge in its magisterial mayhem.
Verdict: A true classic