Chris Gantry

At the House of Cash

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In 1973, after almost a decade in Nashville penning songs for others and releasing a couple of increasingly ambitious LPs of his own, Chris Gantry acted the part of a true outlaw and made an album so unconventional and eccentric that no one would release it. Best known outside of Nashville as the author of Glen Campbell's 1968 hit "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife," Gantry was a transplanted New Yorker with a beatnik streak who rose through the Music City machine alongside buddies like Kris Kristofferson and Shel Silverstein. Johnny Cash, who had covered his tune "Allegheny," recognized in the young singer/songwriter a fellow maverick chafing within country music's commercial parameters and offered him a publishing deal and free rein of his home studio, House of Cash. Expectations were virtually none except that Gantry remain honest, creative, and true to himself. Six years prior, while footloose in Mexico, Gantry had encountered a one-legged man named Jesus Maldonado on a beach in Acapulco. The soulful Mexican had made a lasting impression on him and, seeking inspiration for his upcoming House of Cash sessions, he returned to Mexico and succeeded in tracking down the mysterious one-legged man, who appeared to have anticipated his visit. Gantry's gentle guru promptly drove him to Oaxaca to participate in an intense spiritual peyote ritual called a Mitote, inducing wild psychedelic visions that the singer later folded into the material for his upcoming album. With a crew of heavy-hitting session players, Gantry entered the House of Cash with a fevered confidence and an overflowing imagination, knocking out intense flights of fancy like the jazzy space-soul of "Away Away" and the spoken word "Tear," a warmly delivered tale that plays out amid sparse punctuations of sitar and chamber ensemble. There are bluesy folk numbers and colorful beatnik incantations as well as trippy string-laden ballads like the lovely "Flower of the Mountain" and "Clair Oh Clair," which come across like a druggy Harry Nilsson or an American Donovan. However, nowhere on At the House of Cash is there a sense of Nashville, and at the time of its creation this presented Gantry with a problem. While he succeeded in creating something wild and insurgent, no label would touch it and he eventually shelved it and moved on with his career. Issued here for the first time by Chicago indie Drag City, Gantry's lost third album comes across as a difficult and unruly yet wholly unique document of a true outlaw digging deep into his psyche to offer something totally unfiltered and fresh.

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