Collecting Cosmic American Music

A couple years ago a friend from Numero Records came into the shop and told us about a new project they were researching. We’d worked with them in the past when Dave wrote a story about the reissue label’s release of the first reissue of the Lewis Connection LP, which is a true Minneapolis treasure. This time around they were collecting songs for their “Wayfaring Strangers” series, which is the label’s lesser-known collection of rare, privately-pressed country and folk records. The set in the works, which was released last year, was to feature Gram Parsons-inspired “cosmic American music.”

Of course, the whole idea is complicated in the Parsons legacy, which gets muddier the more you know about him. He came from loathsome plantation wealth and by nearly every account he was pretty much a prick (we wouldn’t recommend reading any of the several biographies of Parsons to a fan). But his country-rock records with the Byrds, the International Submarine Band and the Flying Burrito Brothers were hugely influential in the United States, even if he later dismissed them as “a plastic dry fuck.” The enormous success of the Eagles or Poco is hard to imagine without those records to have shown the way.

Numero released their collection, Cosmic American Music, last year to positive reviews all around. Rather than focus on artists who followed the country-rock tradition, the set includes reproduces tracks from nineteen rare records which owe more to the last two Parsons’ releases, GP and Grievous Angel. This Mistress Mary album, for instance, could easily set a collector back $300.

Reviews of the compilation point out that, as the first of its kind, it could turn out to be something like the original Nuggets LPs, which inspired new interest in discovering vast amounts of largely-unheard 60s garage rock. We hope so and we would love to see additional collections (the good news is that Numero did tag Cosmic American Music as “Volume I.” Another volume will certainly be more interesting to us than another Eagles reissue.

Anyway, the Minnesota artists we recommended didn’t end up on the finished compilation. There are certainly songs from here in the North Star State which we prefer to some selections on Cosmic American Music, but we understand the collection is intended to paint a picture of the subgenre and can’t collect all its best in only two LPs. Besides, a lot of our favorite Minnesota country albums are a little more country and a little less cosmic, we suppose.

One of the albums we recommended was the second record by Podipto, which we have only posted here on the Hymies blog once, and then only featuring some of the cover art. It is a really gorgeous looking record, but we were really remiss to not share at least one song as well.

Their second album was self-released because the Canadian label which put out the first had folded and that’s how it earned its title HomemadeYou can learn a little more about them on their website here, which we should mention describes them as a rock and roll band and not a country or country rock group. Also through their site, you can purchase their two albums on CDs which also include demos and live cuts, and which we enthusiastically recommend.

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