Susan Cowsill: Lighthouse

RIYL: Eva Cassidy, Jackson Browne, Shawn Colvin, The Cowsills

Susan Cowsill’s second solo effort, Lighthouse, is a deceptive album. On the surface, it’s a collection of heartfelt, pretty songs sung by a woman whose voice is rich with texture and soul. Especially when listening through headphones, you get a real sense of how wonderful her voice must be when heard live in a small setting. When you sit down to listen to Lighthouse, the first two or three songs lure you in for what should be a pleasant experience. However, once you get midway through the CD’s twelve tracks, Cowsill’s limitations as a lyricist begin to become apparent.

The singer/songwriter deals with some heavy themes on this record. A majority of the songs were written after the death of her two brothers, during a period that followed the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Cowsill’s home in New Orleans. Cowsill tries to fill each song with a sense of spirituality and optimism that is refreshing, yet her delivery and her lyrics are so earnest that the whole album starts to wear thin. Think of it as neo folk alt pop emo; taken in small doses it’s nice to the ears, but an entire album’s worth may lead you to whip the CD down the driveway.

Still, there are some great songs on Lighthouse. “Avenue of the Indians” features a fine guest appearance by Jackson Browne – Cowsill’s voice is lovely when singing harmony; a beautiful cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Galveston” is near perfect; the title track is an aching, hopeful prayer made delicate by Jack Craft’s piano and cello playing; and “ONOLA” is a hell of a show of strength and loyalty to her adopted city of New Orleans. In fact, when backed by a full on, rocking backing band, as on “ONOLA,” Cowsill’s urgency comes across much better. If only she’d chosen to bear her soul with more hard driving songs instead of ballads and Lighthouse would have been much more memorable. (2010, Threadhead Records)

Susan Cowsill’s MySpace Page
Purchase Lighthouse through Amazon


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