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Copyright © 1999 APonline
November 2, 1999

Associated Press Writer

Continental 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.


Gambit Weekly 12/28/99

By Scott Jordan

Continental 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 of 1999.


Rolling Stone December 16-23, 1999

By D.F.

Continental 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 aforementioned track.
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 Nov. 1999

By Alpo

Continental 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.


This review originally appeared in Amplifier November 1999.

By Michael Toland

Continental 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 Maché's unabashed

Richard-and-Linda-Thompson 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

Continental 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 friends.


Modern Drummer - / February 2000


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.