Various Artists: Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies from the Canyon

Numero Group
By ELIOT WILDER  |  May 1, 2006
3.5 3.5 Stars

Various artists, Wayfaring Strangers
REPACKAGING: Wayfaring Strangers

Who’d have guessed we’d live to see a revival of the ’70s female singer-songwriter, especially not-exactly-household names like Judee Sill, Ruthann Friedman, and Linda Perhacs? It’s not a bad thing, either — without the obscure pioneers compiled on Wayfaring Strangers, we wouldn’t have the likes of KT Tunstall. This opulently packaged collection mixes the reasonably obscure — Mary Perrin and Judy Kelly (both have recent reissues, on Rev-Ola and Radioactive respectively) — with the totally obscure. And though they come from far-flung and varying backgrounds (Shira Small’s soulful, uplifting “Eternal Life” was recorded for a senior project at her Quaker boarding school), these loner artists all looked to Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro the way Nuggets-era garage bands modeled themselves after the Beatles and the Stones. Some succeeded better than others, but there’s little chaff on Wayfaring Strangers. Some tracks are flecked with hippie incense; most are just plain haunting, like Collie Ryan’s æthereal “Cricket” and Linda Rich’s “Sunlight Shadow,” whose refrain goes: “Where can I find a design in life/If I’m filled with pain?” Jennie Pearl’s stark “Maybe in Another Year” is as odd as Björk at her quirkiest. And Genny Reilly’s bitter “Wildman” and Ellen Warshaw’s savage cover of “Sister Morphine” are as close as you get to outsider-classic status.
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