Hurricane Katrina forced us all to reconsider the concept of home. On Lighthouse, Susan Cowsill’s longing for home ties the songs together, and the emotions tied to “home” are more complicated. On “ONOLA,” she gives up on the city. The possibility that this might not be home anymore is one that most who live here now have gone through, one that has led many to leave.
The need for home is predicated by loss, which Lighthouse deals with when she covers her brother Barry on “River of Love.” Since his death during Katrina’s aftermath, Susan has remembered him with the song in her live shows, and it has been grueling, exhilarating or healing, depending on the emphasis. Here it’s perfectly pitched; Cowsill’s feeling her emotions without being lost in them. The pain hasn’t left, but it’s not driving the performance, either.
None of this would matter if the songs didn’t connect, but Cowsill gives herself memorable melodies to sing. The words matter, but unlike many folk rock artists, she doesn’t expect them to put the songs across on their own. Because this is a singer’s album, Lighthouse feels lighter than this description suggests. There’s a theme, but because that theme is expressed through Cowsill, it’s also personal, idiosyncratic and engaging.