© 1999 APonline
November 2, 1999
By ERIC FIDLER
Associated Press Writer
Drifters - "Vermilion" (Razor & Tie)
"Vermilion" is not only a great album, it is the kind of rock
'n' roll album rarely made anymore, the product of a collective
vision - a real band - rather than the mind of one singer-songwriter.
The songs reflect the diverse background of the Continental Drifters'
members, who come from the dB's, the Bluerunners, the Bangles,
Dream Syndicate, the Steve Wynn band and the Cowsills.
But all those parts don't get in the way of a cohesive whole.
Each song, from the jangle-pop and harmonies of "The Rain Song"
(which would be a hit if the drab wasteland that is radio played
anything this good) through the raucous, cautionary "Don't Do
What I Did" to the soft and lovely "Anything," seems to have tapped
into the vein of great rock 'n' roll, achieving a wonderful balance
between rootsy authenticity and pop hooks that proves highly addictive.
They emphasize the songs over the attitude, but can still rock
with a snarl and a sneer.
Nearly as much a rumor as a band - at least on the national scene
- for the past several years, Continental Drifters seem to have
solidified their lineup. With the songwriting and singing split
several ways, male and female voices sharing the lead and a tautness
honed in countless live performances, Continental Drifters are
a very special band and "Vermillion" just might be the best album
of the year.
By Scott Jordan
Drifters – Vermilion (Razor and Tie)
Expertly crafted, strongly played, passionate rock ‘n roll brimming
with heart, wit and intelligence. Every one of the 14 songs is
a keeper, revealing new shades with each listen. Gorgeous vocal
harmonies are everywhere, and the instrumental textures range
from the soothing heartbeat percussion on the delicate love song
"Heart, Home" to the scalding guitars of "Don’t
Do What I Did." Susan Cowsill’s vocal wail on the chorus
of "Rain Song" is the most heartbreaking musical moment
Stone December 16-23, 1999
Drifters Vermilion (Razor & Tie).
The Continental Difters stand straight and sing into the light.
The Drifters are an L.A.-Louisiana hybrid of refugees from the
1980s paisley-punk underground (the dB's, the Bangles and the
Dream Syndicate), and Vermilion the bands second album,
is cut from the acid-soaked roots rock of the day. Be glad it
is a day without end. Thre is a backwoods-Jefferson Airplane feel
to the close, lustrous harmonies of primary singer-songwriters
Vicki Peterson, Peter Holsapple and his wife Susan Cowsill, and
the bayou impressionism of their spins on romance, family and
the road is flecked with surprises; the bittersweet dip in the
galloping chorus of "Way of the World"; the pregrant pause in
the chooglin'-guitar hook of "Meet Me in the Middle." Best of
all, there is a warm, wide welcome in the Drifters' twang, best
expressed in the chorus in the autobiographical ballad, "Drifters";
"Sowhile you're here, you might as well/just sing along." Go on,
don't be shy.
By Michael Manson
When an American artist or group's resume includes the phrase
"Big in Germany," one tends to pause and wonder exactly what sort
of honor this might be. Take actor David Hasselhoff whose records
were HUGE in Germany. The New Orleans-based Continental Drifters
recent U.S. release, "Vermilion," was ranked No. 13 in Germany's
Rolling Stone 1998 annual poll as best album of the year. (The
recording was released back in March of 1998 while the Drifters
searched for a sympathetic U.S. record company. Thankfully Razor
& Tie finally stepped up). They also came up eighth as best
live act and 19th as band of the year. Not exactly a Hasselhoffian
feat, but it seems the Germans have scooped us on this one.
Organist/vocalist/songwriter Peter Holsapple has approached his
work with Continental Drifters as a "musical family." Featuring
four capable songwriters and players in Holsapple, Susan Cowsill,
Vicki Peterson and Robert Mache, a sure and steady rhythm section
in Mark Walton and Russ Broussard, and springing from bands as
diverse as the dB's, Bangles, Dream Syndicate and Cowsills, one
might expect a certain mish-mash of styles. Instead, the Drifters
are a tight unit whose sound echoes earlier acts like the Band
and the Mamas and Papas, and, more recently, the Jayhawks.
The song, "Drifters," appears with this telling lyric—"we are
all drifters/singers and sisters/brothers and lovers and mothers
and confidantes"—a believable statement of purpose as the rest
of the album unfolds. Cowsill is a strong presence throughout
the recording, particularly her vocals on Mache's lone composition,
the beautifully aching "Heart, Home" and Holsapple's own "I Want
to Learn to Waltz with You." On the ballsy boogie of "Christopher
Columbus Transcontinental Highway," Peterson takes a lead on lyrics
that would make Bruce Springsteen proud ("It took two hours to
drive out of post-quake LA/where the freeway is sliced up like
sheet cake"). Holsapples' folkish "Daddy Just Wants it to Rain"
is wonderfully crafted; its lyrics the equivalent of a musical
short story, while his "Don't Do What I Did" is the album's out
and out rave up. It's clear this band is having a great time,
as proven by the spontaneous burst of laughter at the end of the
There's not a clunker in the bunch on this 14-song collection.
This album feels complete with the arrangement of acoustic guitars,
passionate vocals, a piano here, an organ there, driving leads,
thumping bass and harmonies to die for. All co-exist, side by
side, track by track, without a false note to be found. The end
result is a powerful statement of unity, friendship and love.
The Continental Drifters should be thanked for "Vermilion." They've
already got their big danke schoen from the Germans, so it's time
to welcome them back home.
This review originally
appeared on Gaffitti
Drifters Vermilion (Razor & Tie).
Why the Continental Drifters aren't kicking serious ass on a major
label is beyond me. Not only is the band lousy with great singers,
songwriters and players, but the lineup is a PR person's wet dream:
notably, Peter Holsapple (of the ahead-of-its-time dB's and occasional
member of R.E.M. and Hootie et al.), Vicki Peterson (Bangles)
and Susan Cowsill (Cowsills). The Drifters play the kind of free-flowing,
effervescent rock that is always imitated but rarely equaled --
both at home and abroad. Although the group has yet to make a
record that truly captures its live show, the long-overdue Vermilion
is the next best thing to being there. Peterson turns in some
of the best tunes with "Watermark" and the epic "Who We Are, Where
We Live," while Holsapple's song-story of his childhood, "Daddy
Just Wants It To Rain," is genuinely touching. Groups with this
much individual talent usually implode after a few records. Fortunately,
having all been there before, the Drifters appear to be making
music for music's sake. What a concept.
review originally appeared in Amplifier
Drifters - "Vermilion" (Razor & Tie)
A popular myth
in the music business is that a band is a family, with the implication
being that its members not only create together, but also eat,
sleep, hang out, buy groceries and take showers together, as if
these individuals would spend all their time in each others' company
even if they weren't making music. It's bullshit, mostly, but
there are exceptions, including the Continental Drifters, and
not only because two of them are married. This New Orleans-based
collective of veteran musicians -- the names dB's, Bangles, Cowsills,
Dream Syndicate, Bluerunners and Steve Wynn appear on their resumés
-- genuinely enjoy being together, with bonds of friendship knotted
as tightly as those of musical compatibility. It shows on this,
their second album, the wonderfully brilliant Vermilion.
Easy, unforced collaboration is the key here; individual egos
disappear in the spirit of what's best for the band. The sound
is a guitar-rich stew of melodic folk rock and rootsy pop that
draws on the experience of each bandmember, combining all the
elements into a blend so natural and perfect it sounds as if they've
been playing together all their lives. It's an album so good it's
a crime to single out individual tracks at the expense of others,
but I would be remiss if I didn't commend Vicki Peterson's warm
"Watermark" and bluesy "Christopher Columbus Transcontinental
Highway," Susan Cowsill's bitter "Spring Day in Ohio," Robert
tribute "Heart, Home" and Peter Holsapple's lovely "I Want to
Learn to Waltz With You," gnarly "Don't Do What I Did" and elegiac
"Daddy Just Wants It to Rain," perhaps the finest song he's written
in his long career. Maybe the album is best represented by their
virtual theme song "Drifters," in which Cowsill and Holsapple
use both their relationship and the band as metaphors for the
love for which we all search. Whatever superlatives you hear in
relation to this record, believe them.
By Rick Cornell
Drifters - "Vermilion" (Razor & Tie)
While some all-star
co-ops have yielded wholes that are much less than the sum of
their parts -- the looks-great-on-paper Little Village for one
-- this is not the case with the Continental Drifters. Including
former members of the dB's, Bangles, Cowsills, Bluerunners, Dream
Syndicate and Steve Wynn's backing band (Peter Holsapple, Susan
Cowsill and Vicki Peterson being the most recognizable names),
the New Orleans sextet proves with Vermilion, as they did with
their self-titled 1994 debut, to be a team of complementary talents
who apparently feed off each other's strengths. This is no light
supper, it's a feast.
With four of the six members getting at least one writing credit
and everybody listed as playing at least three instruments, the
variety of sounds put forth -- from rootsy ballads and gritty
soul to a perfectly executed pop song ("Way of the World")
and even a little garage rock -- is no surprise, and it sure is
welcome. Holsapple's charming "I Want to Learn to Waltz with
You" is an easy song to fall in love with -- or fall in love
to again -- while the rustic family epic "Daddy Just Wants
It to Rain" represents the most stirring moment on an album
chock full of them. And the sing-along chorus of the soulful,
Band-like "Drifters" ("We are all drifters/Singers
and sisters/Brothers and lovers and mothers and confidantes. .
. So while we're here, we might as well just/Sing along")
could serve as the theme song for an imaginary ContinentalDrifters
Variety Hour, or as a mission statement for a group of talented
Drummer - / February 2000
By LINDA PITMON
Although The Continental Drifters are made up of ace songwriters
from some of the '80s' smartest urban pop/rock bands (Bangles,
Dream Syndicate, dB's/REM) they now have one foot planted firmly
outside city limits. The earthy grooves and ghost notes of drummer
Russ Broussard round off the edges of songs that could become
plodding in the hands of a lesser player. Broussard's Louisiana
roots, honed by years with Zydeco legends Terrance Simien and
Buckwheat Zydeco, shine through the loping "Meet Me In The Middle,"
where the inventive groove comes from riding on the rims. Elsewhere
Broussard gets muscular without running over the band's delicate
balance. Like The Faces before them, the Drifters understand how
star players can let their personalities loose without overpowering
the brilliance of the songs.