The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has moved many songwriters to write about the devastation, but few can match Susan Cowsill for genuine loss.
When the hurricane hit her adopted home town of New Orleans in 2005, Cowsil’s brother Barry was on e of the victims. The former child star from the family band The Cowsills (the inspiration for the US TV show The Partridge Family) also lost her home and 99.9 per cent of her possessions.
So when she sings “Maybe I’ll just fall asleep/And when I come back/I’ll find it’s just a dream/ A real bad dream/ A Terrible dream” on ONOLA, every line is delivered with a deep sense of emotion; her voice as raw as Lucinda Williams at her edgiest.
Lighthouse, Cowsill’s second solo album, is her account of that life-changing experience of surviving the hurricane.
The majority of songs written by Cowsill and her drummer husband Russ Broussard, with the exception of Sweet Bitter End, co written with bass player Tad Armstrong and You and Me Baby, her solo-penned acoustic homage to her daughter Miranda.
She sings from the heart, at times embracing the country rock of Sheryl Crow, other times sounding like All You Can Eat-era k. d. lang, particularly on the string0laden Real Life. Even her stripped down cover of the Jimmy Webb classic Galveston shows her skill as an interpretive performer.
Her old friend Jackson Browne adds guest vocals on the heartfelt Avenue of the Indians and sister-in-law Vicki Peterson of the Bangles joins Cowsill’s brothers Bob, Paul, and John on a cover of their late brother Barry’s song River of Love.
The album ends on a high note. Crescenty City Sneaux, a seven-minute epic which sums up her- and the city of New Orleans’ journey from loss through to the celebration of The Superbowl champions The Saints.
Far from being all doom and gloom, Lighthouse is, as its title suggests, a guiding light of optimism shinging from a dark and dangerous place.
– Alison Stokes