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


The Law: A Measure of Wealth

RIYL: The Kooks, Dogs Die in Hot Cars, The Futureheads

Those coming to the Law via their international exposure on the soundtrack to “The Men Who Stare at Goats” might be a bit surprised when they listen to the rest of the album. Whether that is a pleasant surprise or not will simply be a matter of taste. A Measure of Wealth is just that, a little slice of energetic indie rock that begs the question whether a band from Dundee Scotland would be insulted to be called Brit-pop. Whatever their feelings, their influences are clearly ’80s and ’90s Brit-pop, more on the Blur side of the tracks than Oasis. They lack the Trad-rock elements of the Gallagher brothers, though the album was recorded at Sawmills Studios, the studio that gave birth to Definitely Maybe. This isn’t what you might expect after the lead track “Don’t Stop, Believe” (which is also found on the aforementioned soundtrack) comes blasting out like a Wolfmother lead. Full on blues-based hard rock, with Robert Plant-like wailing in the background, “Don’t Stop, Believe” is pedal-to-the-metal music, and nothing like what follows.


As track one grinds down into a single Hammond chord, the album transforms and we are greeted with a heavily Pulp-influenced tune called “The Chase,” which truly sets the tone for everything to follow. The Pulp influence resurfaces in riffs and refrains throughout, but halfway through, on “Television Satellite” they drop any subtlety to wrap themselves fully in the glam-influence and swirling guitars of the biggest heroes of Brit-pop, Suede. More than a few tracks would have been right at home on an album like Coming Up, and this is a good thing. All in all, the Law have created a romp of an album, one that should be shuffled into any discerning college student’s party mix. So, while anyone looking for more stoner rock based on the opening track might be disappointed, A Measure of Wealth is a solid, energetic debut that shouldn’t be overlooked. (Local Boy Records 2010)

The Law MySpace page


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