There’s no reason, valid or otherwise, why Billy Cowsill should sound so good, even when he blends his voice with partner Jeffrey Hatcher.
“I’m the luckiest 49-year-old there is. I shouldn’t be able to get it this high,” Cowsill said of his voice, which survived four packs a day washed down with a quart of jack Daniels for the better part of 15 years. “I guess it’s lead pipes.”
Cowsill and Hatcher are the mainstay of Blue Shadows.
All the abuse is well behind him, at least the debilitating booze portion. He says he hasn’t had a drink in 15 years and is better for it. Cowsill and Hatcher are once again on the road with their vibrant Everlys-flavored country rock.
Two years ago, the pair emerged from Vancouver with On The Floor Of Heaven, as sweet a debut as ever recorded. Last week, the followup, Lucky To Me, was released.
The pair, backed by the steller rhythm section of bassist Barry Muir and drummer J.B. Johnson, will be in town Monday and Tuesday at Amigos to showcase the disc.
The new 12-song collection is well tuned, having been road-tested during the past 18 months of non-stop touring, Cowsill said.
One song, Maybe In Time, has been part of Hatcher’s repertoire since before he joined with Cowsill in the early 1990s.
“We go a lot by what the audience reaction is and the feeling we get from the crowds when we play the songs,” Cowsill said.
He made the unlikelist of comparisons to their two recordings.
“The first album was like a medium pepperoni pizza, this is a deep dish special,” he said.
A rugged veteran, or perhaps survivor of the 1960s, Cowsill wears his influences on his sleeve. Traces of the Beatles pop harmonies nudge the Everly Brothers high lonesome sound with Hank Williams’ hurtin’ country honk wailing away in the background.
“We’ve been playing these songs for so long now they just come naturally,” he said of the new work. The only concession to the recording studio came with the inclusion of a pedal steel, Hammond organ and cello during the sessions.
The Blue Shadows sound defies categorization, but it has been warmly embraced by the New Country Network, Canada’s version of Country Music Television, for which Cowsill is appreciative.
“We’re not a country band, but in this business you need to fall into one category or another and NCN has been really good to us,” he said, pointing to the band’s first ever video Deliver Me that increased the profile.
The profile took another shot upward earlier this year when Cowsill and Hatcher were the sole Canadians invited to participate in an Everly Brothers benefit concert in L.A.
“Some guy heard us at the South by Southwest conference wand two years later called us up and asked us to come on down for this sweet relief concert to benefit musicians without health benefits,” Cowsill said. “The theme was a tribute to the Everly Brothers. Jeff and I went down with our guitars and did four obscure Everly songs. The response was great but so humbling.”
Eleven of the new disc’s 12 songs were collaborative efforts between Cowsill and Hatcher. The sole outside song, Field of Gold, was written by Hatcher’s brother, Don.
“He played that song for me three or four years ago and then it didn’t twig,” Cowsill said of the folkish tune. “But after playing it we decided it fit well into the sound we were after.”