With this third installment from the New Orleans-based Continental Drifters, the essence of the musical heritage that city is famous for appears to be taking hold of the creative muse these veteran musicians possess. It's been documented that much of the material on their self-titled debut, and on 1998's Mirrillian, was taken east with them when Head Drifter Peter Holesapple (ex-db's and REM/Hootie and the Blowfish sideman) convinced the other band mates to leave Southern California for the bijou several years ago.
Bangle guitarist Vicki Peterson contributes several outstanding cuts like the Zydeco/country influence of "Long Journey Home," which explores the subject of how so many of us have the idealistic notion that we can "go home again," but then, of course, we get burned emotionally again and again. It would be hard for one to imagine Susanna Hofts bouncing her eyes along to this one.
Bassist Mark Walton checks in with "Tomorrow's Gonna Be," which chronicles the plight of a man who pretty much has the life he thought he wanted but is finding "it's not enough." So with seemingly bitter sarcasm he sings, "Tomorrow's gonna be an even better day," to a blues/Cajun/rock hybrid instrumentation. This, along with the majority of the other songs portray a darker, underlying real-life tension that is a stark contrast to the more optimistic, yet fatalistic tone of the last album.
Even when things tend to get more upbeat, as on Peterson's Mellencamp-ish "Na Na," where amidst the rocking of jangley guitars and soaring harmonies, she sings of her life as "the dying of a dream."
Truthfully, the only optimistic songs are born out of heartache, as in the two Susan Cowsill tunes "Snow" and "Someday," the former being both lyrically and topically in the past tense, and the later sung with an eye towards a better future as the band provides a true Beatles power pop showcase for Cowsill's vocals. For those of you keeping score, there's a lift from "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" at the end.
But the coupe de gras from Better Day is Holesapple's "Where Does The Time Go," which he performs like a ticked-off Randy Newman, totally fed up with the middle-aged realization that this is all there is. He's so angry that so much of life has already been. Pretty universal stuff from a guy who probably could find a spot in many-a-mainstream/major label band.
Thank you, Peter, and thank you Drifters for what all of you have sacrificed to give us this group that we can actually anticipate with much excitement each performance and each new release. None of you have lost your direction down by the banks of the "great mistake."