OTTAWA (CP) – You ask him about it and he says he is no more religious than you or me. But then, reflecting on a life spent mostly bumping up hard against regular boundaries of safe and sane behavior, Bill Cowsill concedes he does feel a little blessed, all things considered.
“Some people are just a little more hard-headed or stubborn or probably stupid than others,” says the co-leader, songwriter and singer with the Vancouver-based Blue Shadows. “Some of us just stumble along and trip over things and then get lucky.”
Things are going well for Cowsill and the Shadows these days.
Their second album Lucky To Me (Sony), knocked people’s socks off with tis crisp story-songs and harmonies. They are one of the hottest acts on country radio and are in the middle of their first real headlining tour with western stops still ahead.
This is an odd spot for Cowsill to be in because he’s done his share of stumbling over the years.
You may remember Cowsill. He was a cute little bug in the ‘60s who, with his siblings in the Cowsills irritated the heck out of hippies with their chirpy versions of Hair.
“The Cowsills were originally kind of folky, but we had voices and the harmonies and were able to handle that Beatles and Hollies sound and that was what was selling.”
After the Cowsills faded away he took his royalties and bought a bar in Austin, Texas.
“It was dropping out, sure, but I needed to see some of the roots music first hand and that was the way I figured out to do it.”
“I got a lot of info, but I did a lot of damage too.”
The fact is he spent most of his time with John Hiatt and Joe Ely, drinking the bar dry while picking up essentials of country and Texas blues.
At one point he ended up in Oklahoma City, hanging out and touring with the Leon Russell, Carl Radle and J.J. Cale.
He moved to Vancouver in the ‘80s and sank into that city’s country scene.
“I did a solo thing just trying to stay on stage and then we had Blue Northern, which had a couple of popular things for a while.”
He still felt like he was puttering around until some friends introduced him to Jeffrey Hatcher.
Like Cowsill’s Blue Northern, Hatcher had some critical success with his band the Big Bet but didn’t have much cash to show for it. And, even though he’s about a decade younger, Hatcher shared a musical songbook with Cowsill, heavy on sweat sounds of early rock, good old country sounds and the Beatles.
“The first time Jeffery and I sang together, it was there. We looked at each other and just kept going.
“I’m not going to try and analyse what happens, it’s just too scary for me.
“We just know where the other’s going and how to meet him there.”