The Blue Shadows:
“On the Floor of Heaven”
The 201 re-issue of the commercially unsuccessful 1993 country album “On the Floor of Heaven” by The Blue Shadows has grown into one of the more enjoyable discoveries I’ve made this summer.
The Canadian band was fronted by Billy Cowsill, who was the lead singer and guitarist of the cheesy ‘60s family band the Cowsills, but by the time he formed The Blue Shadows, he could alternately conjure Roy Orbison. The Flying Burrito Brothers or, in his harmonies with co-founder Jeffrey Hatcher, the Everly Brothers.
Many of the songs are bathed in pedal-steel guitar, and if you came to the album without any context, it’d be difficult to place it in time. That timelessness is the album’s most charming quality and also its one significant weakness.
“On the Floor of Heaven” sounds like a lost classic because it does such a fine job evoking the hallmarks of its forebearers, but ultimately it runs a little too long – each song achieves some degree of loveliness while still failing to establish its own personality.
In 1993, I’m certain The Blue Shadows sounded fresh for want of anything else like it at the time – and they still sound fresh today – but while The Blue Shadows are gifted at conjuring the sweep of pop country’s history, they don’t distinguish themselves within it.
Of course, saying a band sounds great without being legendary is a trifle complaint. There are some hints that “On the Floor of Heaven” isn’t a forgotten country masterpiece.
“Raised on Robbery” and “Deliver me,” the album’s obvious bid for a hit single, have a hint of the ‘90s penchant for tight, clean pop – think Gin Blossoms – despite all the country signifiers. And at The Blue Shadow’ best, they fill their loneliest songs with a gravity and pathos that earns the band its comparisons to its country betters.
Download: “Deliver Me,” “On the Floor of Heaven,” “And the Curtains Close” and “Is Anybody There?”