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In Search


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  • Since the dawn of the CD era, a cottage industry has emerged around "holy grail" or "lost" recordings. More often than not, the music doesn't live up to the hype. But In Search, the privately pressed album by songwriter, conceptualist, trickster, and genuine Nashville character Chance Martin, is not only the authentic article, it is virtually unlike any record ever made. Its back-story is as wild as the recording itself --space doesn't permit it being completely retold here (though it's recounted by Martin in the long, captivating liner essay in the booklet). The proprietors of Paradise of Bachelors call this music "countrydelic." With due respect, that's too small a term for what's here. This is the sound of the musically mythological brought to tape. Martin wrote these songs on the famed Martin D-35S that his then employer Johnny Cash had given him; he worked for the Man in Black on and off between 1969 and 1977. He also worked big rock & roll shows and interacted with every luminary on the circuit -- how many people can say that Mick Jagger drove him around London? But Martin was writing songs and collecting musicians along the way. By 1977 he had saved enough to build a tricked-out rehearsal studio that had reel-to-reel tape recorders, a bar, a stage, and a waterbed, in a large room above his parent's garage. Between 1977 and 1980, he and a mostly unknown group of musicians and vocalists -- including the unbelievably creative mysterious guitarist Don W. Mooney -- envisioned and demoed these 13 songs in secret sessions; they had a sergeant at arms at the door. The songs were recorded in 1981 at two Nashville studios under the cover of night. When major labels passed on the tapes because the music fit no discernible genre, Martin pressed up 1,000 on his Macho Records label, gave some away, but basically held onto them. The songs reflect the murky yet ecstatic zone he and his collaborators discovered, where spaced-out psychedelic rock, hard outlaw country, tough mid-'70s Southern funk, disco, and strutting garage rock commingled and bred a musical dialogue and aesthetic so contradictory it became its own language. It's excessive yet focused. It's sprawling, Dionysian, and mercurial, yet earthy and warm. This record is enormous in scope; it cannot be categorized. Electric guitars, basses, tubular bells, keyboards, horns, congas, drums, nature sounds, and a gorgeously soulful female backing chorus all support Martin's basement-deep baritone that walks a line between Waylon Jennings', Tony Joe White's, and Cash's. Samples of individual songs, including the single "Blue Monday" (not the Fats Domino track), merely hint at what lies within -- and beyond -- when the album is taken as a whole. In Search is outsider art at its best. Guided by Martin's vision and shaped via collective process, it uses familiar forms to create a spaced-out language all its own; it is a listening experience like no other. ~ Thom Jurek
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