450 capacity; $12)
Presented inhouse. Reviewed June 7, 2001.
Band: Peter Holsapple, Susan Cowsill, Vicki Peterson, Robert
Mache, Mark Walton, Russ Broussard.
By STEVEN MIRKIN
is an apt verb for the Continental Drifters; the band's history
has a picaresque, unplanned quality that's mirrored in the pacing
of its marathon sets. The Drifters were formed out of a weekly
jam session held at local club Raji's in the early 1990s, and
the band's first Los Angeles appearance in six years (it's now
based in New Orleans) retained the loose, unstructured framework
of a jam session.
Fronted by three superlative singers-songwriters -- former dB
Peter Holsapple, his ex-wife (and member of the 1960s family
band the Cowsills) Susan Cowsill and Bangle Vicki Peterson --
the Drifters suffer from an embarrassment of riches. And the
band's egalitarian ethos ensures that each gets his share of
the spotlight. By the time the set lurches toward its third
hour, however, a little ego, or someone willing to impress their
vision on the band, would be most welcome.
candidate would be Cowsill, who was responsible for the evening's
most distinctive music. Songs such as "Cousin," with
their fulsome dynamics, meaty riffs and soaring melodies find
the heretofore unknown nexus of heavy metal, pop and roots music.
Cowsill's singing is also much improved; her throaty soprano
can sound simultaneously wounded and defiant. When she harmonizes
with Peterson's lighter voice, they coat the music like hot
fudge over ice cream; with Holsapple joining in on a cover of
"Dedicated to the One I Love," they compare favorably
to the vocal prowess of the Mamas and the Papas.
and Peterson have their moments as well: the former turns marital
strife into grim, thorny party music, especially on his duet
with Peterson, "(Down by the) Great Mistake"; the
ballsy pop of the latter's "Na Na"; and "Christopher
Columbus Transcontinental Highway." There's a generosity
at the heart of the Drifters, as guitarist Robert Mache, bassist
Mark Walton and drummer Russ Broussard each have a chance to
shine. But the evening's lumpy pace almost overwhelmed them.
Although a strong editorial hand might improve matters, the
Drifters' faults are so closely tied to their virtues that any
messing with the formula could end up killing the patient.
July 12, 2001
Drifters: Joyful Power Pop With a Nawlins Kick
Continental Drifters stormed Iota on Tuesday night, arousing a near-capacity
crowd with infectious power pop, rootsy balladry and diabolical musical
was little else to expect but that the show would be killer, given the
New Orleans-based band's lineup of former dB Peter Holsapple, his ex-wife
Susan Cowsill (yes, of those Cowsills), former Bangle Vicki Peterson,
former Sparks guitarist Robert Mache and former Dream Syndicate bassist
five performers, who also write the material, spread across the front
of the stage, equally sharing the workload of playing and singing, but
the star of the band is the most unheralded member, sitting in the back:
drummer Russ Broussard.
a song went by that wasn't elevated by Broussard's unpredictable N.O.-style
funky riddums; he shifted tempos throughout the songs, giving them a
playful, staggering quality.
such maneuvers are typical of bands with Holsapple at the helm. Holsapple,
who played keyboards, organ and the occasional acoustic guitar, led
the band through most of the material on its new album, "Better Day"
(Razor & Tie), demonstrating a penchant for sudden octave drops
and plummeting chord changes that do to the ear what fast hills do to
the stomach. The band seems to make music for the old-fashioned reason
that it's fun.
A. J. Wachtel
Continental Drifters - T.T. The Bear’s, Cambridge, MA
band briefly cruised into town after a night in NYC and then onto
a gig in Fall River, MA to showcase their ever-appealing sound and
increasingly growing popularity as arguably the best unsigned and
unknown act in the nation. And you just have to love The Continental
Drifters: infectious and razor-sharp vocal harmonies perfectly arranged
around their songs of life’s losses and gains set the upbeat
tone for the evening. The harmonies remind one of West Coast influences
like The Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, and even The Beach Boys; and
indeed this all-star band packed with veterans from The Cowsills,
The Bangles, The Db’s, and Dream Syndicate - all potent bands
that influenced different music scenes in different eras - themselves
grew up listening to the country and beach-flavored sounds of L.A.,
but this New Orleans-based band’s songs pulsate with different
contemporary pop/rock rhythms and the group’s electrifying one-hour
performance set a music standard that most groups can only dream of
Hearing Susan Cowsill’s (from Newport, RI) stunning and moving
vocals on the slower-paced “Cousin,” “Snow”
and “Someday” and Peter Holsapple’s rendition of
“Don’t Do What I Did,” from their first CD Vermillion
was pure pleasure. The set consisted of a 50-50 mix between their
first release and the just-released “Better Day” and illuminated
the truly fine interplay between the bandmates. Vicki Peterson, Robert
Mache, and Mark Walton play so tight and instinctively together and
driven by Russ Broussard’s powerful pounding, the group exhibits
a sound both highly professional and energetic and enjoyable with
a capital E.
Catching them at a club the size of T.T.’s instead of a larger
and more impersonal venue sizably added to this great group’s
appeal. The CDs frequenting the area so check out this can’t-miss
band before you have to pay through the teeth to use binoculars to
view them live and on-stage and hear them, through an arena’s
muddy P.A. system.
Jazz Fest: Continental Drifters
Lure Duritz, Shear Onstage
ORLEANS — There's no such thing as a typical Continental Drifters
show. Whether it's in their home base of New Orleans, where they hold
forth weekly at the Howlin' Wolf club, or anywhere around the country,
it's always anything-goes and anybody-may-show.
at Howlin' Wolf, with all the commotion of Jazz Fest going on around
town, the Drifters' "anything-goes" element was in full force.
who joined ex-Bangles guitarist Vicki Peterson and the
rest of the sextet onstage in the four-hour-plus show included Adam
Duritz and David Immergluck of Counting Crows, pop
artist Jules Shear and up-and-coming zydeco accordionist Terrance
mostly shoeless Drifters — Mark Walton, Susan Cowsill,
Robert Maché, Peterson, Russ Broussard and Peter
Holsapple — offered selections from their critically praised new
disc, Vermillion (Razor & Tie), including the standouts
"Rain Song" and "Who We Are, Where We Live."
singer/songwriter Shear was the first guest to grace the stage, performing
a duet with Peterson on "If She Knew What She Wants", a Shear-penned
tune the Bangles popularized in the '80s.
also is known for penning the song "All Through the Night," recorded
by Cyndi Lauper for her 1983 debut album, She's So Unusual.
up, zydeco accordion phenom Simien, with longtime keyboardist and
collaborator Danny Williams, joined the Drifters on a lively
set featuring tunes from his new CD, Positively Beadhead (BMG/Restless):
"500 Miles," "All Her Lovin' " and "Macque Choux."
and Holsapple dueted on an acoustic, country-tinged interlude that
featured a cover of Delaney and Bonnie's "Never Ending Song
of Love," followed by the band in its entirety doing its anthemic
Nirvana got together with the original members, and the Beatles
opened up, it still wouldn't be this good," fan Brett Milano of Boston
returned to the stage, this time with the Drifters backing, and covered
several selections from his latest, Allow Me (Uni/Zoë), including
a rocking "Love With You".
Duritz was coaxed out of the audience, along with Immergluck, for
an impromptu duet. After Duritz kicked off his footwear ("I'm not
going to be the only guy wearing shoes!" he said), they covered "Catapult"
from Recovering the Satellites and "I Wish I Was a Girl" from
This Desert Life.
between tunes, the chatty Duritz spun tales of pre-celebrity, starstruck
encounters with Shear and the Bangles.
then coaxed the Drifters back onto the stage — "Come on all you drifters,
singers and sisters," he quoted back to them from their song — and
they launched into a loose and bouncy version of "Service of the Queen"
and "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby".
shy of 2 a.m., bluesman John Mooney took the stage, sporting
a shiny, metallic shirt and his signature chrome-dome head. "Did anybody
do any mambo here tonight?" he asked rhetorically, before breaking
into a swampy number, "Country Boy," featuring his razor-sharp slide
playing, followed by the bluesy "Cypress Grove" and "Shortnin' Bread."
could play all night, but we're so f---ing tired," said Cowsill, as
they brought the show to a close with a cover of the Mamas and
the Papas' "Dedicated to the One I Love," replete with four-part
© 1999 - 2000
That Rumble in the Rear View? (The Continental Drifters @ Jazz Fest
Grounds on 4/30/00)
It was a sonic '55 Chevy as driven by the alt-country supergroup,
the Continental Drifters (composed of members from such varying bands
as the Dream Syndicate, the Cowsills, the Bangles and the dB's). This
miracle-of-the-road band possesses the sound of a mythical desert
bar you come across, one you step into for a bit of libation to retreat
from the heat. A place filled with the characters and kooks who've
escaped the populated areas to hide amongst the cacti with their idiosyncrasies.
Pure country-rock -- that of thorned-up road tales and sticky romance.
And Vicki Peterson (sans her Bangles pretty-girl image), with her
curly Sheryl Crow locks and in wife beater outfitting, is one hell
of a sexy woman.
New York Newsday,
November 24, 1998
Article © copyright 1998 - Newsday Inc.
A Touching Tribute / The folk legend's music speaks
LISTEN, LISTEN: The Music of Sandy Denny. Saturday night at the Arts
at St. Ann's series, St. Ann's Church, Brooklyn. A touching, intelligent
tribute to one of Britain's legendary folk singers.
For the short time she was with us, Sandy Denny symbolized all that
was pure and precise and harmonious about folk music.
Denny, who so eloquently interpreted the English folk tradition as
a soloist and as an integral part of Fairport Convention, was a mystery
wrapped in a marvelous, smoky soprano, embellished by wispy blond
hair, a come-hither gaze and a tragic coda. She died in 1978, after
falling down a flight of stairs at a friend's house. She was 31 years
Under the towering vaulted ceiling and the splendid stained glass
of St. Ann's Church in Brooklyn Heights Saturday night, a terrific
conglomeration of musicians, folk and otherwise, paid Denny a fitting
and long-overdue tribute, capturing in nearly two dozen performances
the art and atmosphere of Denny's superb songwriting.
Denny, who was born in Wimbledon, was like so many of her contemporaries
on both sides of the Pond in that she started singing in public in
folk clubs (in London, in her case) in the '60s. Her solo careers
bookended her success with Fairport, in which she played and wrote
alongside Richard Thompson and recorded four albums. The music was
mold-breaking: Finely crafted and stylized, it combined haunting,
traditional material with edgy rock and roll rhythms.
Denny went on to form a sequel to Fairport, called Fotheringay, with
her husband-to-be, Trevor Lucas. During a hiatus in her career, she
gave birth to her only child, Georgia. She returned to the stage in
November, 1977, in a performance captured on an Island CD issued this
year called "Gold Dust." Six months later she was dead.
At St. Ann's, few words were wasted during the two-hour concert. Each
singer came to the stage unintroduced, sang and left the stage. None
of the songs was introduced. Peter Holsapple was apparently aiming
to let the music speak for itself; it was the proper tack.
Holsapple, former leader of the highly respected db's, constructed
an appropriate set list, mixing a couple of obscure compositions with
Denny's standards, and a vocalist guest list that included R.E.M's
Mike Mills, Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish, Robyn Hitchcock,
Susan McKeown and ex-Bangles Michael Steele and Vicki Peterson.
McKeown nearly walked away from the rest with a stunning version of
the traditional Fairport tune "Tam Lin," a driving, spiraling song
punctuated by the steely notes of Holsapple's piano and the inspired
backing of his band, the Continental Drifters. McKeown's transparent
vocals ricocheted off the stone walls of the church; the effect was
On the other hand, Rucker couldn't get around the dirgelike "Blackwaterside."
He seemed to swallow some of the notes, and what he didn't swallow,
the acoustics did. I don't know how the songs were paired with the
singers, but he could've made a better choice. R.E.M.'s Mills was
reedy but convincing on Denny's powerful ballad, "It Suits Me Well,"
and Hitchcock contributed flavorful harmonica to the rousing "Mattie
Steele soared with the compelling "North Star Grassman and the Raven,"
Susan Cowsill was suitably low-key on "At The End of The Day,"
Amanda Thorpe was elegant but a bit distant on the encore, "Farewell,
Farewell." It is among Sandy Denny's best songs and a bittersweet
epilogue to the evening.
Times - Picayune Lagniappe
May 22, 1998
By KEITH SPERA
The weekly Tuesday
night Continental Drifters & Friends series at the Howlin' Wolf
is a throwback to the Drifters' days in L.A. During a year long residency
at the Hollywood Boulevard club Raji's, they would open the stage
to whichever musician friends happened to be in the house. Given the
diversity of the Drifters' resumes - which include membership in the
dB's, the Cowsills, the Bangles and the Dream Syndicate - there were
always interesting friends on hand.
That community spirit was in full effect this past Tuesday. After
a set by North Carolina rock band Jolene, the Drifters were joined
by Fairport Convention vocalist Iain Matthews. Matthews' appearance
had been billed in advance; Jackson Browne had not. Around 1a.m.,
Browne - passing through town to see his old friend Susan Cowsill
en to Jamaica - was backed by the band on a beautiful, delicate "Waterloo
Sunset" with yet another guest artist, Maura Kennendy, supplying harmonies
and the Drifters' Robert Maché providing mandolin accompaniment.
After Browne's one-off, the Drifters demonstrated how much they've
made Fairport Convention's "Meet On the Ledge" their own (they released
it as a 45 rpm record last year); a band with as much as this one
is able to explore all the shades of emotion in such a song. Matthews
sang lead on "I Don't Want to Talk About it" and a batch of his own
material; the ease at which the Drifters fell in behind him was testament
to both their technical skill an selfless attitude when it comes to
Then Matthews, Cowsill and fellow Drifters Peter Holsapple and Vicki
Peterson teamed up for a set of sumptuos four-part harmonies on the
a cappella "From Galway to Graceland," before the Drifters took over
again and finished out the evening on their own. Even without any
superstar friends, it would have been a memorable night.
POP MUSIC REVIEW
Drifters Make Warm Return
Special to The Times
Something odd has
happened to the Continental Drifters in the four years since, after
becoming one of Los Angeles' top club bands with weekly stints at Raji's,
they drifted off to New Orleans, becoming one of the Crescent City's
top club bands: While they had a Southern Americana sound when based
here, they've got more of a California sound now that they're based
In truth, the sextet that played at the Alligator Lounge on Saturday,
one of two Southland weekend shows, is quite different than the one
that left, with bassist Mark Walton (formerly of the Dream Syndicate)
the only remaining founding member. Peter Holsapple (co-founder of the
dB's, who has served as a touring member of R.E.M. and, currently, Hootie
& the Blowfish) had only recently become a full-time Drifter when
the move was made, while Vicki Peterson (formerly of the Bangles) and
Susan Cowsill (formerly of the Cowsills) had, as the Psycho Sisters,
been auxiliary Drifters. Now the three-with Holsapple and Cowsill married-are
the band's front line, handling most of the writing and singing.
In place of the sharp, Band-like angles the original lineup plied, the
current Drifters forge distinctive, keen pop melodies and harmonies,
and it's pretty much an even trade-off. Several of the new songs stand
out, with one real ace in Peterson's "Where We Live, Who We Are," a
taut, haunted welcome-to-the-club anthem for anyone who's been blindsided
by life's unpleasant surprises. Peterson, too, is the standout presence,
a stage natural.
What remains intact is a casual, family-like atmosphere -accented Saturday
by the numerous friends and relatives at the show (including X's D.J.
Bonebrake, sitting in as temporary drummer) who helped make it a warm