The other day I was browsing through a bookstore in Knoxville, Tennessee when I spotted a rack of vinyl through a doorway. This particular doorway led to antique furniture store called Mid Mod, which was attached to the bookstore I was in. Wandering through finely crafted coffee tables and dining room chairs, I found three rows of vinyl to sort through. Seeing as I can’t resist searching for new music, I quickly shuffled through the records, finding the usual assortment of bygone bands and old hits. In the second row I stopped at a picture of a sandwich covered in sand, a sticker above it reading “1 record album on 2 discs for continuous flowing Sand.”
The price on it was steep—18 dollars for a band I hadn’t even heard of—so I took a snapshot of the cover and looked at a few more books before wandering back outside. It had just begun to rain, and water covered the parking lot, glowing in a cloud of spectral mist.
When I got back in the car, I managed to find the album on Spotify. This was more difficult than I hoped it would be. Like many bands that have been forgotten by the sands of time (pun intended), Sand wasn’t easily searched for on the streaming platform. Their music had been jumbled in with other artists with similar names, and searching for Sand came up with everything but what I was looking for. Intent on finding it, I googled what I had read on the sticker and found a Discogs page for the band, which gave me track titles and allowed me to find the album on Spotify.
The song I had searched for at random, “Destined Road,” was the one I put on as I drove through the mist toward a bar located almost directly underneath the massive interstate that ran through Knoxville. There I hoped to work a bit on the novel I was writing. I was only about thirty seconds into the track when I parked in the bar’s gravel lot. Nevertheless, I got stuck listening to the song, which moved out of oscillating ambient guitar sounds into an acoustic soundscape draped with tight vocal harmonies. The lyrics oozed with childlike simplicity and love. The chorus, which began with “Crooked way, on a destined road,” glowed with an organic resonance, just loose enough not to feel overproduced, but also profoundly powerful in its layered vocals and strong harmonies.
That’s when the song broke into a country rock jam that I’ve never heard the equal of. Twin lead guitars traded off riffs and cycled through repeated lines before one guitar harmonized its descending line with a voice, forming a rhythmic harmony that felt, in the moment, nothing short of ecstatic. At over 6 minutes in length it never once seemed stale, and I came out at song’s end breathless, yet ready for more of what I had just heard.
My first question was, what happened to this band? There wasn’t much information on the internet, though Discogs gave me a faint idea of the band’s story. They had formed in Portland, Oregon in the early 70s, and cut their self-titled album in late 1972 for Barnaby Records, which was owned by the famous singer Andy Williams. Barnaby apparently didn’t know how to promote the album, perhaps due to its unique sound (especially for the label). It could also have been MGM’s fault, who distributed the album, or a confusion about the gimmick of the two vinyls, which were both cut single-sided so that a double turntable could transfer to the second side without stopping the music.
To a small number of music nerds, I imagine this must be a cherished album. It seems like, for an instant in time, Sand struck gold with the right combination of energetic, country-influenced rock music and inspired harmonies. The record is easy-listening yacht rock before the genre became overblown and cheesy, and has a strong tracklist and a feel all its own. The rest of the album’s songs are an almost flawless series of smile-inducing instrumental breaks and tight melodies about love, mystery, and companionship, just progressive enough to challenge your ear but comforting in all the right ways. Favorites are “Who Ya Tryin’ to Fool,” “Mystery,” and “Lovin’ You.”
As it goes with music, and art in general, some things just fall through the cracks, and it’s hard to pin down a reason and rhyme to it all. A few members of Sand would go on to some success with the band Quarterflash, though I, for one, will remember this long-forgotten gem that I discovered on a rainy day while wandering through an antique furniture store, the mist rising just outside the window.