The pure, blues sound made by Cosmos Sunshine Heidtmann—yes, that’s his real name—comes from his hippie-style upbringing on the Connecticut River. (No phones, no electricity, no bathrooms, water that had to be hand pumped, etc.) He started his music career as teenager and has continued to create new recordings since then, with four albums and four EPs under his (presumably homemade) belt. Heidtmann has seen success opening up for artists like Gov’t Mule, Blues Traveler and King Crimson, and this exposure just landed him in the Connecticut Blues Hall Of Fame. His latest album is called Comes With The Fall, and you should check it out right now. But if you have to wait, you can instead check out this awesome mix tape that Heidtmann made MAGNET. It’s all great stuff, but given his name, Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos” is a glaring omission.
Fleetwood Mac “Hypnotized”
I’ve always been a huge Mac fan. I was five years old when Rumors came out, and it was part of the fabric of my childhood. As got in to my teens and started playing guitar, I naturally gravitated to the Peter Green era. In fairly recent years, I have discovered and become obsessed the Bob Welch middle period. Such an amazing run of albums. Great tunes, great performances and that rhythm section … My favorite album from that period is Future Games, but “Hypnotized” from Mystery To Me is my favorite track.
Thee Oh Sees “Nite Expo”
At a time when I was thirsting for some downright nasty, evil rock music, I discovered The Oh Sees and their latest album, Orc. Sonically, “Nite Expo” is a marriage of psychedelic sludge and punk rock with a dash of jittery electro pop. The vocals atop it all are an absolutely sinister chant, extolling all the glories of an orc’s night out on the town.
Fairport Convention “Matty Groves”
Fairport’s album Liege & Lief is a stone-cold classic and had a huge influence on their rock and folk contemporaries. They seemed to breathe the air of a glorious pagan British past, while rocking it right in to what was then the cutting edge. Great playing throughout, particularly the guitar of the great Richard Thompson and the unequaled vocals of Sandy Denny. “Matty Groves” is a good, old-fashioned murder ballad, chock full of intrigue, rumpy pumpy and swordplay.
Skip James “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues”
Skip James always stood out amongst the Delta greats. His guitar playing was exquisite, which was a hallmark of the genre, but it was his high, mournful vocals that hooked me. I recently learned to play this song for my induction to the Connecticut Blues Hall Of Fame, and I feel like my playing, singing and, really, my entire life have been enriched by the experience. This is the work of an absolute master.
Suzanne Vega “Small Blues Thing”
A better singer/songwriter than Suzanne Vega you will not find. This song transports me back to a time in NYC that was lived right on the edge. I was a close friend of Suzanne’s brother, the great artist Timothy, who sadly passed away about a year after he had called in sick from working an event at the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11. It was an incredibly sad irony. In the ‘90s, a mutual friend of ours, Jaik Miller, would cover “Small Blue Thing” with his great band Xanax 25. Jaik was my brother in arms and an absolutely mind-bendingly gifted singer/songwriter. Jaik, too, departed this plane of existence some years back. Jaik and Timmy left giant holes in the fabric of my life, and this beautiful song reminds me of them both, which is a most welcome thing.
Jimmy Page “Lucifer Rising”
Twenty-odd minutes of druggy, bad-vibe freakout music designed to entice The Son Of Morning to join us for tea. A Halloween favorite of mine.
Cowboy “Please Be With Me”
For a time in my life, I was lucky enough to have close proximity to the Allman Brothers Band in the Warren Haynes/Allen Woody era of the 1990s. Warren was a mentor of mine and produced my old band’s debut album, the eponymously titled Walkinbird. It was an amazing time, and I am blessed to have lived (through) it. Rather than share a Brothers track, which I’m sure everyone will have heard, I give you this beautiful love song featuring the brilliant slide guitar of Duane Allman.