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by Nick Cristiano
June 14, 2010
California Chronicle

SUSAN COWSILL "Lighthouse" (Threadbare, 3 stars)

"From Katrina to Super Bowl Champs, this is our story," Susan Cowsill writes in the liner notes of her second solo album. If the name sounds familiar, yes, the New Orleans-based singer and songwriter was a member of the '60s family group the Cowsills. You won't find their kind of effervescent pop here; instead, Cowsill, in the manner of her work with the Americana supergroup the Continental Drifters, delivers something deeper and richer.

"Lighthouse's" elegant folk-rock, at times augmented by violin and cello, is suffused with loss and dislocation. Besides great material loss, the temporarily displaced Cowsill also lost one of her brothers, Barry, in the 2005 hurricane. (In tribute, she covers his "River of Love" with vocals by three other siblings.) But this story's arc has a cumulative power, and it ends on a note of hope with "Crescent City Sneaux." As Cowsill references both the city's storied musical tradition and its new football champions ("Oh when dem Saints come marchin' in / They'll all be singin' / Who Dat, Who Dat say they gonna beat them Saints"), the joy and optimism are as palpable as they are hard-earned.

_Nick Cristiano

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