CD Review: Wayfaring Strangers - Cosmic American Music

An excellent compilation of laid back country rock from the 1970s.
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The late 1960s and early 1970s gave birth to what has since become known as country rock. Though he hated the term, former Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother Gram Parsons was at the forefront of this movement, describing the Burrito Brothers as "Basically a Southern soul group playing country and gospel-oriented music with a steel guitar." Not quite rock, not quite country, not quite soul or gospel, this was a new form of music -- Cosmic American Music as it were.

Parsons wasn't the only one traveling down this musical path. Many musicians seemed to be thinking the same way as him, releasing records in this genre, perhaps to lesser acclaim, but no less interesting. The Numero Group has brought together 19 such artists and songs from the period and the compilation, Wayfaring Strangers -- Cosmic American Music, flows together well enough that one would think these songs were always meant to be together.

The songs selected all have a laid back, mellow vibe about them, with dreamy instrumentation and no shortage of pedal steel guitar. The CD opens with Jimmy Carter and Dallas Country Green's "Travelin'." The song features a ringing guitar intro and strong vocal harmonies. Picking up-tempo as it goes a long, the song's title is appropriate, as one imagines a long stretch of freeway, maybe in a movie scene during this track. This song, like many others featured here, showcases some fine, melodic guitar soloing.

Mistress Mary offers up the old school country of "And I Didn't Want You," a slow-burning ballad that showcases a passionate, haunting vocal. On "You Can't Make It Alone," Plain Jane plays the laid back type of country rock so prevalent on the early 1970s Rolling Stones records, giving an excellent vocal in the process.

The appropriately titled "Lily Of The Valley" has Dan Pavlides offering an excellent vocal over gently strummed acoustic guitars and pedal steel while Mike & Pam Martin's "Lonely Entertainer" uses pedal steel to great effect, giving the song a warbley feel to go along with its subject matter. "Alabama Railroad Town" by Doug Firebaugh is a short, yet effective, closer with its dreamy vocal and echo-laden guitars. It is a fine ending to a fine compilation.

For those longing for the country rock of yesterday or those tired of what passes as country music today, Wayfaring Strangers -- Cosmic American Music offers 19 excellent tracks for every mood. Though it is a compilation, it flows surprisingly well and The Numero Group is to be commended for selecting tracks that work so well together. Gram would be proud.