Bathroom music never sounded so good.
“I felt like a Clydesdale on a plow,” says Billy Cowsill, referring to his club days before teaming up with fellow singer-songwriter Jeffrey Hatcher and forming The Blue Shadows.
“I was singing everything. Writing hardly anything. My embers were dimming real fast. Then, I met Jeff and it was like playing musical tennis. For example, I hate doing anything on a break between sets except maybe standing there and having ten cigarettes.
“But with Jeffrey it was fun. Real fun again. And so on our breaks we’d be writing songs in our manager’s office. Hell, half this album was written in offices and various bathrooms.”
The album in question, On The Floor Of Heaven (released by Columbia/Sony Music on Tuesday), is also the result of decades in the music biz, playing thousands of clubs and searching for the right sound.
And that sound is The Blue Shadows, who are performing at the Crazy Horse Cantina, during Stampede. It is, as they say, the sound of “Hank goes to the Cavern Club,” the sound of Hank Williams and the Liverpool nightspot where The Beatles first played.
“Jeffrey’s basic songbook and mine are very, very close – Hank Williams, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys even. Just very musical stuff. When we first sang together my hair stood on end because it was letter perfect. It’s this thing, like how Paul doesn’t sound like John and John doesn’t sound like Paul, but when you put them together there’s this synergy, this kind of third guy that emerges,” says Cowsill over coffee in Andreas Tavernas.
The result is a sweet sounding debut disc that recalls the effortless harmonies and hooks of the Everly Brothers or some of the country-flavored compositions of Blue Rodeo.
For the U.S.-born and current Vancouver resident Cowsill, it’s been a rock road since enjoying brief fam ‘n’ fortune with The Cowsills in the ‘60s with such chewy pop tunes as The Rain, The Park & Other Things. It was followed by the almost inevitable crash, booze, drugs and the long struggle to put it all back together.
For the Canadian-born Hatcher, there had been a variety of band incarnations since the ‘70s with Jeffrey Hatcher & The Big Beat coming closest to hit territory in the mid-80s.
As well, Blue Shadow’ bassist Elmar Spanier and drummer J.B. Johnson have been a team since the B. C. power-pop outfit The Bonus Boys in the early ‘80s.
And now it’s all come together for the four with a sound that is fresh and yet takes its feelings from the days gone by when rock ‘n’ roll was still young.
Hatcher says the band’s name was suggested by “the woman who made my guitar. There’s a song she likes, from a Disney movie in the ‘50s, a cowboy song about blue shadows on the trail. And we liked the name.
“Before that there was a string of names but no matter what we called the band it was always called Billy Cowsill And,” says Hatcher.
Those days are gone now.
Cowsill is adamant about not “rehashing” his past. He just wants “to be in a band.” Hatcher too. And with Spanier and Johnson, they feel they’ve got the band. Who knows how far they’ll go. Only The Blue Shadows know.