What a joy to stumble across this brand-new book published by Seattle’s Sunyata Books – The Singing Earth by Barrett Martin. There are numerous reasons why it, from page one onward, happened to intrigue this particular reader, but the foremost is that it is such an unusual memoir as penned by a stalwart member of the Northwest’s music community. Martin – like myself – was an Olympia kid who grew up playing drums all throughout our school years. We also both ended up studying at the University of Washington – albeit, my years there preceded his by a decade. From there we both formed or joined rock ‘n’ roll bands, played the local scene, and cut some records. A major difference in our subsequent paths is that my bands are mostly better left forgotten, while some of Martin’s will likely be remembered widely for many years to come.  

The Singing Earth provides some great back-scenes insight into his time spent auditioning, gigging, and recording with several of the Grunge Era’s finest bands including Skin Yard, the Screaming Trees, and Mad Season. That content alone would make Martin’s book – and the accompanying CD containing rare tracks – a worthy one to dive into, but the bulk of The Singing Earth conveys Martin’s evolving understandings about the spirituality of music-making itself. Martin, who earned a masters degree in ethnology and linguistics, is a fine and noted writer – one who is skilled at explicating the exotic percussion traditions of the many tribal societies he has studied via endless travel around the world over the past few decades. Readers are rewarded with introductory glimpses into musical cultures as far-flung as those in Africa, the Amazon rainforest, Cuba, the Middle East, and the Mississippi Delta. Along the way, Martin studies drumming techniques with various master musicians and also hones his skills as an audio producer. Not your typical gossipy rock star tell-all here – The Singing Earth helps us feel the mystical vibrations that have inspired musicians all across the globe down through the eons.