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music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Vermillion

Artist: Continental Drifters
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: October 1999

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

Vermilion is a little gem. The Drifters didn't get an American record deal for more than a year after they recorded Vermilion. The record didn't get much attention when it was finally released. Vermilion deserves more respect. It's a breezy, enjoyably unpretentious adult record. The Continental Drifters are rock and folk veterans. Peter Holsapple made great smart poppy rock records with the dBs in the 80's. His wife Susan Cowsill got a taste of the big time early as a member of the Cowsills, a family group which helped inspire the Partridge Family. Vicki Peterson played guitar and sang with the Bangles. Vermilion has a democratic spirit and it sounds like the musicians had a good time making it, contributing music and harmonies to each other's songs. Each singer/songwriter gets their chance in the spotlight and has a distinctive sound but most of the songs share a relaxed, positive sound.

The songs have an easy feel, often sounding like classic folk songs. Susan Cowsill's slower songs are especially good. Cowsill and Peterson smoothly harmonize and create a nice contemplative mood on their The Rain Song. Cowsill sings about an old lover, "when it rains, that's when I remember you." Cowsill's Spring Day in Ohio is a sad, touching remembrance of youth. Drifters, Cowsill and Holsapple's reflection on their musical career and life's journey from LA to Louisiana, has a similar timeless feel. Cowsill sings about how their life has drifted and the reassurance of knowing they'll always have their friends and family to sing to. Holsapple's organ completes a mood not unlike Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over. I Want to Learn to Waltz With You, written by Holsapple and sung by Cowsill is a very sweet love song about leaving time for special moments even when the daily routine takes all of a couple's time.

While Cowsill's ballads are the highlights of Vermilion, the other Drifters add good material. Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway, Peterson's road song, is a rocker with a good, cool groove. Way Of The World has the perky pop energy and harmonies of a good Bangles song. Peterson's Watermark is a pleasant, if slight country pop song with nice mandolins. She sings guitarist Robert Mache's touching Heart, Home with a simple yearning. Holsapple's contributions are somewhat mixed. Don't Do What I Did is an O.K. throwaway rocker about his romantic mistakes. It's pretty fun but Holsapple's singing is fairly awful and the lyrics never get much beyond the title. Darlin' Darlin' is pleasant but also pretty slight. Meet Me In The Middle, a loose, chugging rocker, is a better Holsapple song. His best contributions come at the end of Vermilion. The detail of Daddy Just Wants It To Rain justifies its eight minute length. His bittersweet history of a mom and dad's life feels like an evocative short story. Holsapple and Peterson's Anything isn't a groundbreaking love song but its warm mood encapsules the positive, really nice feeling of Vermilion.



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