It was sometime during the mid-'60s that the counter cultural and rock & roll lifestyles merged. Any kid with an acoustic guitar and songwriting ambition suddenly had accessible role models in the folk and rock worlds to emulate, and plenty of venues throughout America at which to try out their songs and pick up new, progressive musical tricks in the process.
Michael Oosten began his musical journey playing in various rock bands. Keeping a band together was difficult. He had begun writing songs that veered away from pop-song copies; and then there was the relative ease and lack of responsibility required for hauling around a guitar. And so, Oosten began a solo career. With a Martin guitar in hand, he took off, playing in coffeehouses and clubs across the country. By the end of 1973, he was ready to record an LP. Oosten settled on five songs and rounded up a couple of friends to fill out his folk/rock/psych sound: some piano from Tom Hennick on ‘Hey Babe,’ vocals from Jan Reek on ‘Garden,’ and bass from Al Byla on ‘Sunny Day.’
True to Oosten's nature, the album was sunny and full of charm, and it reflected his itinerant philosophy of life at the time. University of Wisconsin art professor George Cramer, and Mercury Records graphic artist, John Craig, came up with airbrushed artwork which graces the album's sleeve, and Oosten and friend Lester D'ore (former editor of Chicago countercultural paper Seed and designer of the Yippie flag) holed up at D'ore's Wisconsin commune farm to silkscreen each LP jacket by hand.
And what an odd record, full of buoyant psychedelic folk/rock—woodsy, spare, and warm—that sounds as if it could have been recorded on the front porch of a country house. Needless to say, considering the individualistic nature of the album's genesis, marketing and publicity for the album was limited to Oosten driving to radio stations in surrounding cities to hand-deliver copies to DJs. Still, ‘Wayfaring Boy’ received quite a bit of airplay in Madison, and the album as a whole gained solid play on college campuses. Columbia Records expressed interest in Oosten's music; but after a single meeting with the label, it was clear that the album would be too difficult for the mainstream honchos to market. Oosten's whimsical, wayward talk-singing puts us in mind of other meandering vocal faves from various eras (like the Incredible String Band, or the Meatpuppets, to name but two). The album has plenty of lovely musical and instrumental bits, from the bouncy ‘Hey Babe’ to the brightly smiling ‘Sunny Day,’ while on the epic ‘Hungry Horse Montana,’
Oosten switches seamlessly from Celtic picking to Middle Eastern chord progressions. Oosten proves himself a stellar guitarist along the lines of John Fahey or Leo Kottke, only in a more eccentric and percussive mode. This new re-release has bonus tracks: three previously unreleased songs from 1973, to be exact. All told, the work of a true renegade, ripe for rediscovery. Oosten’s own version of his terrific album, exclusively.
Hungry Horse Montana