The face of country music is changing so rapidly that some of its product defies description.
The Blue Shadows fit into that category of hard-to-label but good music.
The Vancouver-based band, to perform at the Palomino Club on Monday, isn’t caught up on labels. Band member Jeff Hatcher says he doesn’t even think about it until someone asks.
It’s just the sound that comes out when we do what we do,” says Hatcher, a former Winnipegger. “I know why some people called our first album country, and I don’t protest that. People hear what they hear and like what they like.
Hatcher, who moved to Vancouver a few years ago, says the expanding horizons of country have allowed the Blue Shadows a forum for their music. He also com0pares today’s country with the rock scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“Rock quickly spread across the demographic map. It became less localized, and after a few more years it became more mainstream. Until not too long ago, country was only for Nashville and for twanging, now it’s become more mainstream.”
With country in the mainstream, more people are sitting up and taking notice.
“There are people listening to country music now who wouldn’t be caught dead doing it 10 years ago,” says Hatcher. “It’s spread out a lot and takes in a lot more than country and western. It takes up a lot of slack that rock and roll doesn’t.”
Hatcher, who attended Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, doesn’t like to write or perform certain types of music. He just does what comes natural.
“You get the worst songs when you try really hard. It’s worth trying just once. All you aspiring songwriters, try really hard to do something and watch how lousy a song you write. Don’t try too hard.”
The Blue Shadows are led by Billy Cowsill. He first achieved fame as a teenage singer with the family band The Cowsills.
George Vincent promotion representative with Sony Music, says the harmonies between Cowsill and Hatcher are incredible.
“They are the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. To hear them live on stage is just like listening to the compact disc. They have been compared to Chad and Jeremy and the Everly Brothers. I had to her it to believe it.”
Their current album, On the Floor of Heaven, has enjoyed moderate success, selling 11,000 copies in Canada. They were recently in Austin, Tex., discussing a possible distribution deal in the United States and other countries.
According to Hatcher, they are looking to release their second album sometime this summer.
“Whatever people like about our first album will definitely be on the second. Out record company called our first album country because they had to call it something.”
The band has followed its own path in music. This had led them to a solid, loyal fan base.
“I’ve never seen such great reviews,” says Hatcher.
“The bands I’ve played in before have always gotten good reviews, but this band has gotten killer reviews everywhere we have gone.”
Hatcher, who has performed with The Fuse, The Six and The Big Beat, looks forward to playing in his home town.
I wish we were playing a couple of dates in town, there are so many people to visit. There are a few must see’s and everybody else is as best as I can fit them in. It’s pretty impossible to see everybody I want to.”
He left the north end when he was 10 and moved to the south side. He then moved from Winnipeg to New York City when he was 22.
“I went with my brother Paul. He played drums in all the bands I played in up to the Blue Shadows. Then I spent nine years in Toronto, and have been in Vancouver the last four years.”
It’s been a tough, long grind, but Hatcher and the band show no signs of slowing down.
“We play so much we almost never rehearse. There’s no need and no time.”
He doesn’t anticipate much change during the next five years.
“The best you can hope for is more of the same. Personally, I would like to write more songs for more people. Writing is another great love of mine.”