Various Artists, “Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music” (Numero Group)
Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music
For over a decade, the people that run archival record label Numero Group have proven themselves as true musical treasure seekers. The imprint’s fifth compilation in the Wayfaring Strangers series, Cosmic American Music, centers on a sub-genre originally developed by Gram Parsons and his Flying Burrito Brothers. Numero’s lens focuses on the pivotal period between 1969 and 1980, when many smaller musicians were directly inspired by A&M’s Burrito Brothers debut The Gilded Palace of Sin.
Pedal-steel guitar forms the ultimate backbone of the release, but common Americana instrumentation like banjo, fiddle, and stand-up bass also appear quite often. It’s very apparent throughout that Parsons’s experimental genre roadmap provided myriad ways to continue onward for his followers. Although most of these artists never recorded music again, and none of them found outside success, the songs here are as comfortable as a pair of work boots. The album’s liner notes detail the heartbreaking stories that gel with the longing sounds on disc, particularly that of singer-songwriter Sandy Harless, who wrote the sparse folk tune “I Know Her Well”: after financing his album through his fish-breeding business, he was hoodwinked by his label. While success eluded Harless the first go-round, he’s got an ally in Numero, who shine more cosmic rays on a much-deserving set of songs.