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This collection of unknown songs by unknown performers captures the country-rock movement of the '70s.

Music Review: Various Artists – ‘Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music’

Courtesy of Conqueroo
Courtesy of Conqueroo

In the 1970s, nothing was bigger than county-rock. Influenced by Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, The Byrds, and The Eagles, musicians everywhere were adding rock rhythms to traditionally country instruments like banjos, fiddles and steel guitars.

A few of them got very big, while others were one-hit wonders. And then there were hundreds of others who found a small label or financed themselves to put out a single and then faded without ever finding an audience. Some were more talented than others but they gave it their all, believing they had what it took to succeed in this deceptively simple genre.

This is a very unusual collection in that not one of these country-rock performers ever made it big. None of them even had one hit. It’s an interesting concept, but not particularly successful. The music is pleasant enough, but there is not one performer who actually stands out or sounds particularly innovative.

They all seem like they were trying to be Gram Parsons or Glenn Frey or Harris – who could blame them? And it is depressing to know they all failed to break out, because they aren’t bad. For the most part, though, the songs are neither country enough or rock enough to sound authentic. It’s a trick to hit a balance that skews enough one way or another to achieve a real edge.

Still, it is an interesting snapshot of a time in music history that does not get the attention other genres do, like the punk rock movement. There are 19 songs included and many of them actually skew to folk more than country or rock, which was true of the country-rock superstars as well. The titles tell the story, with songs like “Lily of the Valley,” “Mountain Roads,” “Buffalo Skinners,” and “American Railroad Town.” There are also many love songs.

Add to these the love songs like the sweet “To See Her Smile” and “Me Lovin’ You” and the lost love songs like the bitter “All Cried Out” (which, to its credit, is one of more original numbers in the collection).

Music lovers who are interested in learning about the ’70s should definitely pick this one up.

Photo courtesy of Conqueroo


About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, Southern Crossroads: Georgia Bluesand Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.

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