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Stream Primeval Road
Primeval Road, David Chalmers’ debut album self-released in 1976, is a tonally varied ride of road-tested highs and lows refined by endless gigging, Old West imagery, breathtaking guitar heroics, and powerful, resonant piano work.
Raised by an angelic-voiced mother and pianist, who taught him the wonders of 88 keys from age five, and a father with a wide-ranging curriculum vitae that included consideration for the violinist chair of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Chalmers was instilled with a deep love of music that distinctly colored his worldview. Born in Lima, Ohio, raised in Seattle, and landing in a different city, or country, each of his four years in high school, Chalmers’ early itinerancy and exposure to sound prepared him for life as a working musician on the roads of the Midwest and eastern seaboard.
During his time in Seattle, Chalmers was gifted his first Gibson six-string acoustic, redirecting his focus away from the black and white keys to a rock n’ roll spotlight spurred on by the arrival of the Fab Four on The Ed Sullivan Show. At fourteen, Chalmers’ fronted The Gas Company, his first Portland-based, British Rock and R&B inspired combo, playing a little Beatles, but primarily exploring the contents of the Rolling Stones’ early catalog. A few years later, while finishing his final year of high school in Dubuque, he joined The Butterscotch Grove, aka The Grove, who were managed by future music industry titan Irving Azoff. In a post-Woodstock landscape the group played a litany of outdoor concerts supporting the likes of the Grateful Dead and Crosby, Stills & Nash posed as The Third Booth, of “I Need Love” infamy.
By the early ‘70s, Chalmers had settled into a quaint home in Princeton, IL where he began fronting his own combo and fine-tuning a wealth of original material he’d amassed since his teenage years. Many gigs were to follow for The David Chalmers Band, and by 1972, the group began roughly a year of sessions at the soundproof, subterranean surroundings of Golden Voice Recording Co. in South Pekin, IL. The sessions, funded by fees earned at the quartet’s gigs, yielded tracks which would comprise Primeval Road, as well as Chalmers’ two 1977 albums, Looking for Water and All Night Long.
Many of the tracks on Primeval Road evolved in the studio setting from Chalmers’ decades deep songbook, nevertheless carrying a heavy debt to Leonard Cohen, traces of Bob Dylan, Graham Nash/The Hollies, and The Yardbirds. Some tracks were first poems (dating as far back as 1965 when the Chalmers family was in France) later structured into songs, such as the examination of class values or spirituality in “Function Clan,” and the Huckleberry Finn-inspired “Driver’s Wheel.” Perhaps most interesting and telling of all is the focus on multi-faceted meanings and influence from psychedelic guru Timothy Leary, someone Chalmers once lent musical support to.
While the majority of Primeval Road’s appeal comes in the form of its assured, original compositions, Chalmers and crew try their hand at “I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” Crazy Horse’s tale of heartbreak involving an ascending star. On Primeval, the introspective extroverts on a tetrad of considerations commingling in the psyche; the long-fought life of an independent vagabond musician is examined (“Stagecoach”), the youthful discontent of being misunderstood and pondering taking the quick route out (“I Don’t Want to Go Home”), and the title track are all filled with star-gazing curiosity, periodically landing on the spiritual map.
With singer-songwriter sensitivity, dexterity, and the accessibility of the early sides of Mahogany Rush, Robin Trower, and Joe Walsh, combined with the backward-looking, late psychedelia of Robert Lester Folsom, David Chalmers’ Primeval Road strolls beyond many in the private-press field, and leaves those searching on the margins with hope that further fabulous finds lie just beneath the surface.