Two fools on stools. That’s how Billy Cowsill describes himself and songwriting/performing partner Jeffrey Hatcher whenever they play a rare gig without the rest of their band, the Blue Shadows.
Those two singing fools had the time of their lives a couple of weeks back when they played Los Angeles at a benefit concert called Sweet Relief in aid of veteran musicians who need funds for hospital and other expenses.
“The ball got rolling in Austin at the South By Southwest Music Conference when we played there in the spring,” says Cowsill, who rolls into town with the Blue Shadows tonight for a gig at The Sidetrack Café.
“As the old adage goes, you really never do know who is going to be in the audience. As it happened, the guy who organizes the Sweet Relief concerts was there and he loved us. The next thing we knew we were booked for the concert and the theme for it was the music of The Everly Brothers.”
If anyone knows the music of Don and Phil Everly, it’s Cowsill. And Hatcher isn’t far behind. Cowsill and Hatcher’s vocal blend has been compared to the legendary brothers dozens of ties. And if comparisons have to be made being favorable compared to the best can’t hurt.
“All the other acts were doing the well-known stuff like Bowling Green. Oh yeah and Danny Hutton from Three Dog Night and Brian Wilson put together a video of Dream for the show. But Jeffrey and I pulled out a couple of obscure B-sides like Strangers That We Are and the place went nuts.
“Phil Everly was right there in the front row and when we were done that row stood up and a wave started to the back of the hall. We were on cloud nine. I mean these were the guys who taught me how to sing,” says Cowsill, who has been a fixture on the western Canadian music scene for almost two decades.
It’s almost hard to believe it’s been that long since the lanky crooner made his way up here from Austin and began playing Edmonton bars with Brian Fustukian and Sharon Anderson.
He later headed to the West Coast where he wound up in Blue Northern, and then moved on to front Trainwreck, from out of which The Blue Shadows grew.
Finally, real commercial (instead of only constant critical) acclaim could be a reality if the ball keeps rolling for the Shadows as it has in the past year.
Deliver Me, the quartet’s final single from the debut album On The Floor Of Heaven, got considerable airplay from coast to coast. That, coupled with constant touring that had the band opening for acts as musically diverse as The Rankin Family and The Band, seemed to turn the tide with listeners nationwide.
“The video release of Deliver Me did wonders thanks to NCN. Our sales jumped from 20,000 to 25,000 units after the video came out and Jeffrey got a pretty nice royalty cheque for that one as well,” continued Cowsill, who hasn’t tasted major acceptance sine he was a teenager and let his family band The Cowsills up the charts with songs like Indian Lake and hair.
The Blue Shadows new album Lucky To Me, which showed up in the stores this week, pruned a bit of the country feel off the Blue Shadows’ musical branches and nurtured a more Beatles sound into the mix.
“Riding Only Down has a country sound and that’s our first single and there’s steel guitar on another track. But I think our sound is more galvanized and people keep telling me the album sounds 3-D. It’s almost a mono mix.”
Cowsill also has a gut feeling about this version of The Blue Shadows, which is rounded out by drummer J.B. Johnson and bassist/vocalist Barry Muir.
“I had this same strange feeling about a year before The Cowsills broke big and I hadn’t had it since until recently. With (manager) Lars Wanagas banging on every label door in the States and us about to tour down the U.S. coast in the fall, I think we can make a splash.”