The Via Maris

The Wilderness Underneath
(Perfect Circle Records)

Now is as good a time as ever to redefine "desert rock." For most people, it means expansive country rock with a couple of cacti in the background. But now, thanks to urban sprawl, it often means expansive country rock music surrounded by lots of sports bars and move-in-today apartments. Not so for Chad Sundin of The Via Maris, a collective of musicians whose very name means "the water way." Sundin has waged an internal tug-of-war between belonging to the desert he came from and feeling decidedly landlocked. "All my life, I have wanted out of cinder block backyards fencing in the drought," he sings on the title track of this consummate coming-home-to-the-desert record, which is sonically spare but rich in imagery, whether it's describing the moisture between your ear and a hot telephone or measuring the distance between a loved one and the snooze bar. Sundin seems to have found a way of preserving "the wilderness underneath" through his production and writing style, which hark back to the early-'70s singer-songwriter template. It's all good, as the Zonians are fond of saying, and this album is bolstered by notable musical contributions from Matt Riser, Lisa Marmur, and longtime collaborator Kenny Kohlmeier.

 
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