In hindsight, it's a minor miracle that the Continental Drifters stayed together as long as they did, given their various and at times conflicting personal and geographical imperatives. From the early 1990s to the early 2000s, the Drifters functioned as a sort of indie-rock Fleetwood Mac: a shifting collection of talents, with multiple singers and songwriters coming together to craft heartfelt, hook- and harmony-laden Americana music, based in Los Angeles and then New Orleans.
They broke up a decade ago. But the release this summer of a new Continental Drifters compilation CD, "Drifted: In the Beginning and Beyond" – it contains the band's original album, as well as live tracks and other odds 'n' ends – has inspired all 10 former members to reunite for shows in New Orleans and Los Angeles.
They'll perform at Tipitina's on Saturday, Sept. 12, and at the Morgan-Wixam Theater in Los Angeles on Sept. 19-20 (the Sept. 19 date in L.A. is already sold out). Tickets for the Tipitina's show are $50.
The roster for the three shows includes singer Susan Cowsill; her husband, drummer Russ Broussard; singer/guitarist Peter Holsapple, formerly of the dB's; singer/guitarist Vicki Peterson of the Bangles; bassist Mark Walton of the Dream Syndicate; guitarists Robert Mache, Gary Eaton and Ray Ganucheau; Carlo Nuccio, drummer for a wide range of New Orleans bands; and keyboardist Danny McGough.
Nuccio and Ganucheau, New Orleans expatriates living in Los Angeles, first formed the band with Walton, McGough and Eaton in 1991. A regular Tuesday night gig at a Hollywood club called Raji's earned them a dedicated following.
Other musicians frequently sat in; they included Holsapple, Cowsill and Peterson, all of whom eventually became regular members of the band.
The lineup shifted when the band moved its base of operations to New Orleans. Various incarnations released three well-received albums: 1994's self-titled "Continental Drifters," 1998's "Vermilion" (which was originally released in Germany, followed by an American release in 1999) and 2001's "Better Day." They also released "Listen, Listen," a collection of songs by Fairport Convention's Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson, via a German label in 2001.
In 2003, they also finally issued "Nineteen Ninety-Three." The decade-old recording, made in Los Angeles in 1993, should have been the Drifters' first album, but was shelved when the band's line-up changed dramatically during the move to New Orleans. The "Nineteen Ninety-Three" recordings featured an all-male Drifters line-up with Nuccio, Ganucheau and Eaton as the primary songwriters.
No incarnation of the Continental Drifters has performed since a 2003 show at Carrollton Station featuring Eaton, Ganucheau, Nuccio, Walton and Holsapple – a roster that was very similar to the original lineup. Starting on Saturday at Tipitina's and continuing the following weekend in Los Angeles, all incarnations of the Drifters will come together temporarily, before drifting apart once again.