Tuesday, October 13, 2015


A band that too many people missed back in the '90's, best-known for its cast of almost-stars, super-cool covers and songwriting chops. The group started off in L.A. with ex-members of Dream Syndicate, Circle Jerks and Giant Sand jamming together, and discovering they were in the best band of their lives. Next came a bigger name, Peter Holsapple, once a dB, and recently a sideman for R.E.M. Things were getting serious.

The band set up residency in a Hollywood club, Raji's, and their Tuesday night shows become the stuff of legend. Stars started dropping by to sit in, and some actually loved it so much they stayed; now The Drifters boasted harmonies from the duo of Susan Cowsill (The Cowsills) and Vicki Peterson (The Bangles). Records were next, and over the course of a decade and three albums, they made a set of alt-country and power-pop gems, able to go from sugar-coated to twangy to raunchy at any moment.

Instead of doing the typical best-of, this double-disc collection fills in all the blanks in your Drifters collection. In other words, if you don't have the original albums, rush out and buy them now, then get this. And for fans, this should be almost all new, a real blessing. Disc one is from the early days of the group, when Holsapple was first in the orbit. The gang actually made an entire album, which was subsequently shelved when Cowsill & Peterson joined up, and it was no longer going to be representative. It's pretty much a different band, but still sounds excellent, and the songs are roots-rock with high-quality lyrics. Dallas, by early lead singer Gary Eaton, is a reflection on being a very young kid in small town U.S.A. in 1963, and hearing about the Kennedy Assassination. Such was the depth of material the band was now dealing with that they set such numbers aside for years. Now that full album, plus some early versions and demos of the time now arrive here.

The second disc looks at that other side of the band, where they did all these great cover versions in the live show. Being big music fans, they found everything from obscure but brilliant numbers to big hits that hadn't been heard in decades. The harmonies of Peterson and Cowsill were key to this as well, able to knock home runs on stage with The Mamas & The Papas hit Dedicated To The One I Love, or doing Lucinda Williams' Crescent City way before her wide acceptance. They owned the Gram Parsons number A Song For You, and pulled off a miraculous version of The Hollies' harmony-heavy I Can't Let Go. Also on this disc is the full E.P. Listen Listen, previously unreleased in North America, which sees the group tackle a full set of Fairport Convention/Richard Thompson songs. I hadn't even heard of this before.

Everybody has an underdog in their collection, a band you love that most people don't really get or even know. It's pretty cool when years later, you get over two hours of new music, and all of it just as worthy of your love.

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