Anyone who is even somewhat familiar with mid-to-late sixties pop music in The United States will instantly recognize the name Cowsill.
The Cowsills were 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 play the parent instead of their own mother.
The group began during the mid sixties and gradually expanded to include Bill, Bob, Barry, John, Paul, mother Barbara, and Susan who was the youngest member at nine. They would place eight songs on the Billboard 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 seventies but did reunite a number of times during the following four decades. Barry’s death in 2005 due to hurricane Katrina and then Bill’s passing in 2006 have made future reunions improbable. And John continues to tour with the modern day Beach Boys.
Little Susan is all grown up now and has gone on to 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, the follow-up to 2005’s Just Believe It.
She wrote or co-wrote eleven of the twelve tracks and the song structures, especially the lyrics, show sophistication and depth. The style ranges from up-tempo pop to more of a modern folk flavor.
Many 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 nature. “You and Me Baby” is a gentle, eternal love song. “Lighthouse” finds Susan singing to only a piano and cello in the background as she reminisces about her family and growing up in Newport Rhode Island, 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 gets. The old Glen Campbell hit, “Galveston,” is the only cover and she slows the tempo down to present it with just a bass and acoustic guitar in support, underscoring how, 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 sixties-pop sound of The Cowsills, but is well worth the wait.
Article first published as on Blogcritics.org