Earnest American guitar-rock bands promoting strong musical values are due for a comeback. Today, we’re offering some primo candidates.
For those who adore the rootsy, understated, country-tinged rock popularized by the Band, the Byrds, Little Feat and Graham Parsons, get to your music emporium and pick up “continental Drifters” (Monkey Hill/Ichiban)
At turns earthy and whimsical while always tuneful, the Drifters will get your body swaying to the romantic trials of “Mixed Messages” and the (aching waltz time) stumbling blocks posed by the “Invisible Boyfriend” – that idealized memory of a lost love that mere flesh-and-blood mortals can never match. You’ll turn back the clock with their lightly funky cover of “Soul Deep” and a neat rendering of Michael Nesmith’s “Some of Shelly’s Blues.” And, take a stroll along the enigmatic “Highway of the Saints.”
Only after lapping up this set did I pry open the booklet to discover several reasons it’s so successful. Sharing writing and singing duties are Peter Holsapple of the much-loved dBs and Vicki Peterson, guitarist and key songwriter of the Bangles. Both were jangle pop acts that borrowed styles liberally while managing to carve an identity of their own.
Also in this surprisingly organic mix are bassist Mark Walton (formerly with Dream Syndicate, John Wesley Harding and Giant Sand), session drummer Carlo Nuccio (ex-Tori Amos) and a fresh vocalist named Susan Cowsill, youngest sibling in the ‘60s family pop group, the Cowsills!