Threadhead Records, 2010
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/02/2010
Anyone who is even somewhat familiar with mid to late ‘60s pop music in the United States will instantly recognize the name Cowsill.
The Cowsills was the original Partridge family, or at least the basis for the series. They were approached by a television network about having their own show but turned the offer down when they learned Shirley Jones would be playing the parent instead of their own mother.
The group began in the mid’60s and gradually expanded to include Bill, Bob, Barry, John, Paul, mother Barbara, and Susan, who was the youngest member at age nine. They placed eight songs on the Billboard Magazine pop charts between 1967 and 1969 including “The Rain, The Park & Other Things,” “We Can Fly,” “Indian Lake,” and “Hair.” The group drifted apart during the early ‘70s but did reunite a number of times during the following four decades. Barry’s death in 2005 due to hurricane Katrina and Bill’s passing in 2006 have made future reunions improbable, however. John continues to tour with the modern day Beach Boys.
Little Susan is all grown up now and has gone on to have a solid solo career. She has backed such artists as Dwight Twilley, Carlene Carter, The Smithereens, and Hootie & The Blowfish, in addition to being a member of The Continental Drifters. She has now returned with her second solo album, Lighthouse, which follows 2005’s Just Believe It.
She wrote or co-wrote eleven of the twelve tracks here, and the song structures –especially the lyrics – show a sophistication and depth of feeling. The style ranges from up-tempo pop to more of a modern folk flavor.
Many of the songs have a poignant quality to them, which may be due to the loss of family members. “Avenue Of The Indians” is a coming to terms with loss yet has a spiritual quality to it. “You And Me Baby” is a gentle and eternal love song. “Lighthouse” is just Susan singing with a piano and cello in the background as she reminisces about her family and Newport, Rhode Island, which was her childhood home. “Onola” is a tribute to her new home city New Orleans.
“Dragon Flys” is about as close to pure rock as she comes, and as the lead track established, the youngest Cowsill has turned fifty. The old Glen Campbell hit “Galveston” is the only non-original tune on this disc, featuring Cowsill slowing the tempo down and presenting it with just a bass and acoustic guitar in support, which proves that many times, simple is best.
Every once in awhile, an artist returns from obscurity with an excellent album, and so it is with Susan Cowsill. Lighthouse is the result of a long journey from the ‘60s pop sound of The Cowsills but was well worth the wait.