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 Local News  -   Thursday, July 3, 2003

Living on the Edge of Country

411's music writer


The Cowlicks, from left, Mike Anderson, Todd Novak, John Fonseca, Michael Hanna and Peter Tucker.


  • What: The Cowlicks

  • When: 3 pm Saturday

  • Where: Henry Miller Library, Big Sur

  • Directions: Big Sur is 26 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1.

  • Cost: $10 donation to the upkeep of the library

  • Information: 667-2574

  • Online:,

  • Insider's tip: Have dinner at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn after the show. The restaurant opens at 6 p.m. Call 667-2377 for reservations.

  • The Cowlicks are currently riding high, having been voted "Best Music to put some Twang in your Thang 2003" by the East Bay Express. No small achievement for a band that has only been in existence since 2001 and one whose formation happened partially as a result of the chance meeting of two musicians.

    Berkeley resident Todd Novak is a singer-songwriter-guitarist with a long history of touring, as a member of Kevin Salem's band, among others. One evening, he happened to wander into the Albany Café, which was holding its first open mic night. Novak signed up to play and afterward ended up becoming friends with the open mic's host, singer and guitarist, John Fonseca, who is now a member of The Cowlicks.

    The other members of the band are Mike Anderson (bass, vocals), Michael Hanna (guitar, mandolin, banjo and vocals) and Peter Tucker (drums, percussion), and between them, the five members of the band have played with artists of the caliber of The Waybacks, Lyle Lovett and Chris Isaak.

    Since the band's inception, The Cowlicks have been gigging constantly around the Bay Area and have had their music played on several local radio stations, including KPIG.

    The music of The Cowlicks owes much of its sound to the influence of artists such as Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers, who are widely credited with the fusion of rock and country to create the roots music movement.

    Bands such as The Eagles and, more recently, Uncle Tupelo and Wilco have developed the sound, creating electric country music with a harder rock edge.

    The Cowlicks, however, are equally comfortable with both acoustic and electric settings.

    "When we do an in-store concert, it's almost straight bluegrass," Novak said. "If we're out in the clubs it veers into electric stuff, even beyond the Burritos. But it's always got a little country edge to it."

    The band's eponymous debut CD is a superb illustration of both the members' collective musicianship and Novak and Fonseca's songwriting. The 12 tracks range from rockers such as "Baby Please" to the straight-ahead uptempo country of "It's a Long Road," while the slower songs such as "Sweet Rosette" could bring a tear to even the most jaded eye. The quality of Novak's songwriting has been compared to that of Tom Petty and John Mellencamp, and justifiably so.

    Several reviewers have already tipped the Cowlicks as being the "next big thing," and the band certainly has the talent to achieve this and more. This weekend's concert might be one of the last chances you get to hear them without shelling out the big bucks, so what are you waiting for?

    Originally published Thursday, July 3, 2003

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