By Matt Morrissette

The experience of seeing Philly’s Cosmic Guilt live for the first time is a heady one. With a live lineup featuring as many as 10 musicians decked out in pristine vintage western wear and a sound that’s equal parts Americana, psychedelia and chamber pop, a person could be forgiven for mistaking the band for a very pleasant and talented cult that stumbled into the venue fresh from California’s Laurel Canyon or Bakersfield circa 1970.

The band’s leader and primary songwriter is Delaware’s own James Everhart. Perhaps best known for a six-year tenure as Low Cut Connie’s fiery lead guitarist during the band’s rise to national prominence, Everhart was a fixture of Newark’s original music scene during the halcyon days of East End Café and Mojo Main. Everhart has also released a series of acclaimed garage rock singles and records under the moniker of his musical alter ego, Jimmy Scantron, over the last decade.

Cosmic Guilt’s Delaware roots run deep. Everhart’s longtime friend and frequent collaborator, George Murphy, has shared guitar duties with Everhart in both Cosmic Guilt and Scantron. CG also features the talents of Delaware natives Tyler Yoder (Fiancé and Milieu Lust) on bass, Jillian Bruce-Willis (Gozer) on percussion, and Pat Kane (Kid Davis and the Bullets) on pedal steel and mandolin.

Cosmic Guilt’s self-titled debut record in 2022 landed in the Philadelphia member-supported radio station WXPN’s Top 25 of list for that year for good reason.

The band creates a template of lush and layered harmonies, orchestral interplay between twin guitars and pedal steel, mandolin or harmonica, and a plaintive brand of songcraft that contains knowing nods to classic country and folk traditions while simultaneously having the lyrical and sonic anxiety of the modern world.

“My main influences for this band are Fairport Convention, Lee Hazlewood, The Byrds, The Mamas and the Papas, Paul McCartney and Wings, and various British folk-rock nuggets from the ‘60s and ‘70s. I just love big, orchestral rock music,” says Everhart.

On his contribution to the band’s creative dynamic, guitarist George Murphy adds The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Sir Douglas Quintet and Michael Nesmith’s (The Monkees) First National Band to the list of artists one can find in Cosmic Guilt’s DNA. Murphy also credits Scott Birney’s (of Delaware’s legendary Sin City Band) radio show at WVUD for introducing him to these and other relatively obscure cosmic country artists during his formative years.

With their reputation growing via singles in regular rotation on Philly’s WXPN, sold-out headlining shows at venues such as Johnny Brenda’s and Arden Gild Hall in North Wilmington, as well as coveted opening slots for Father John Misty, Sharon Van Etten, and The Walkmen, Cosmic Guilt just released their second full-length, Palace of Depression.

The album is named after the infamous Vineland, New Jersey building made from salvaged materials during the Great Depression. It was recorded at Hi5 Studios in Kensington, and the band used live performances to get the feel of the rhythm section followed by the overdubbing of other instruments to capture unique sounds in their natural space. The result is both a continuation of and a significant leap beyond their well-regarded debut record.

To celebrate the release of the new record, the band has a mini-tour on tap featuring a release show at the always hot-and-raucous First Unitarian Church in Philly on the official release day of May 31. Other dates will be in Atlantic City and Baltimore with more to be announced.

Though Everhart describes Cosmic Guilt as his “retirement band with gentle music that’s easy on the ears and the soul,” a deep listen to the band’s new album reveals a group that’s just hitting its stride and discovering new layers in its identity.

Above: James Everhart (front, center) and his band Cosmic Guilt have been selling out area venues. Photo by Bob Sweeney.