There are some bands that everyone should know, be aware of, embrace and revere. The Continental Drifters are one of those bands. The subtle elegance and grace that embodies their music – as pure American sounding as one could wish (even their name sounds just right) – makes me happier than happy that Omnivore Recordings has seen fit to release this wonderful double compilation, Drifted: In The Beginning & Beyond. A 2-CD set with some fine liner notes by Scott Schinder and recollections by the various members of the band AND 33 songs that take you for a ride of melody, harmony and musicianship that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere nearly as deft and skilled.
You probably know their name by virtue of some of the members’ previous outfits: Peter Holsapple, the master songwriter/guitarist of The dB’s; Vicki Peterson, the guitar powerhouse of The Bangles; Susan Cowsill, who many of us watched as we were all children when she was with her family band, The Cowsills. But the Continental Drifters are so much more – a true collective of talents, singers, songwriters – storytellers who found themselves in this magnificent collective, creating some of the most deliciously music-for-all I’ve ever heard.
To get to the point, starting with what I consider the band’s “theme” song, “Who We Are, Where We Live” appears here in an early version, which after repeated listens, I think I love even more than the version I’ve been used to. Listen to those yearning vocals and the dramatic wash of the music – a stunning opener. “Side Steppin’ The Fire” is about as Band-ish one could want/hope for; “The Rain Song” is thoughtful, sweet, pained and emotionally charged and again, this early version captures an even greater sensitivity; “Karen A” is a demo, but not only sounds damned perfect and complete but a song I’d kill to write (!) and “Invisible Boyfriend” is still as wry as it’s haunting. The second disc features some of the covers the Drifters would add to their live shows; all tasteful and all given their own special spin. Amongst my choice highlights: “I Can’t Let Go” (the old Hollies hit); Richard Thompson’s “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight”, a live version of Sandy Denny’s “At The End Of The Day” and the exquisite rendition of Michael Nesmith’s “Some Of Shelley’s Blues” – all wonderfully chill inducing.
So read no further. Just do yourself a favor and some justice. Pick up this 2-CD set and let it become part of your soul and your consciousness. And tell me later on how you think The Continental Drifters are one of the best things you’ve ever heard and praise the skies for them having given us something as fine as this musical tonic for the soul.
Drifted: In The Beginning & Beyond is available now