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(Troubadour; 450 capacity; $12)

Presented inhouse. Reviewed June 7, 2001.

Band: Peter Holsapple, Susan Cowsill, Vicki Peterson, Robert Mache, Mark Walton, Russ Broussard.


Drift 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.

The likely 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.

Holsapple 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.

The Washington Post
Thursday July 12, 2001
By Buzz McClain

Continental Drifters: Joyful Power Pop With a Nawlins Kick

The Continental Drifters stormed Iota on Tuesday night, arousing a near-capacity crowd with infectious power pop, rootsy balladry and diabolical musical wizardry.

There 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 Mark Walton.

The 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.

Not 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.

But 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

The Continental Drifters - T.T. The Bear’s, Cambridge, MA

The 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 attaining.
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.


Diane Gershuny


Jazz Fest: Continental Drifters Lure Duritz, Shear Onstage

NEW 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.

Tuesday at Howlin' Wolf, with all the commotion of Jazz Fest going on around town, the Drifters' "anything-goes" element was in full force.

Artists 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 Simien.

The 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."

Pop 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.

Shear also is known for penning the song "All Through the Night," recorded by Cyndi Lauper for her 1983 debut album, She's So Unusual.

Next 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."

Peterson 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 "Drifters".

"If Nirvana got together with the original members, and the Beatles opened up, it still wouldn't be this good," fan Brett Milano of Boston said.

Shear 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".

Next, 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.

In between tunes, the chatty Duritz spun tales of pre-celebrity, starstruck encounters with Shear and the Bangles.

He 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".

Just 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."

"We 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 harmonies.


© 1999 - 2000

What's 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 for itself

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 old.

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 electric.

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 Groves."

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.


The Times - Picayune Lagniappe
May 22, 1998


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 making music.

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.

Los Angeles Times
Oct.7 1996

Continental 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 down south.

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 homecoming.

©2003 Continental Drifters L.L.C.

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