Up On The Chair Beatrice by The Psycho Sisters

August 31, 2014

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Who would’ve thought that Barbara Cowsill’s little girl would grow up to become a Psycho Sister. But so it is for Susan Cowsill of the famous pop singing family of the 1960’s.

Vicki Peterson, a founding and current member of the Bangles, and Susan Cowsill have been friends, bandmates, and session singers for over 20 years. They were both members of the Continental Drifters and have toured extensively as a duo under the name Psycho Sisters. What they have not found time to do is enter a recording studio together; until now. Twenty-Two years in the making, Up On The Chair Beatrice will be released August 5th.

They took a unique approach with their new album. While they wrote or co-wrote seven of the ten tracks, none are brand new compositions. Instead they reached back into the early 1990’s for their material. This means that the release has a retro feel to many of the tracks. The songs have been honed by years of being performed live and now they form the foundation for their album.

The album travels in a number of musical directions and lacks a cohesive feel, but on the other hand, it is always interesting. “Never Never Boys” is a jangling pop piece that would fit nicely onto a Bangles album. “Numb” has strings but at heart is a crunching rock song. “This Painting” and “Gone Fishin’” have are Americana style and tone, which gives them a laid back rootsy feel. “Heather Says” is a song Cowsill sang as a teenager and her voice reverts back to that time.

At the heart of the album is their ability to combine their voices into wonderful harmonies. Their voices blend together so seamlessly that at times it is difficult to tell them apart.

The Psycho Sisters have produced an album that should resonate with their fan base and maybe earn them some new ones as well. An interesting album from two veterans of the American pop scene.

 

 


At Least We Have Each Other by The Hobart Brothers with ‘Lil Sis Hobart

February 25, 2012

The Hobart Brothers & Lil’ Sis Hobart may not be a super group in the usual sense of the word, but it is the coming together of three artists from different musical styles and backgrounds. Jon Dee Graham, Freedy (not Freddy) Johnston, and Susan Cowsill have combined their talents to form The Hobart Brothers with Lil’ Sis Hobart. They took the name Hobart from the dishwashers of the same name, which are found in nearly every restaurant where they performed during the early days of their solo careers. They are now about to release their debut album, As Least We Have Each Other.

Their ten song album comprises seven songs from their most recent studio recording sessions, plus three from their first, drumless, demo sessions. With the purchase of the album comes a free download of the entire nine song demo session.

Jon Dee Graham was a member/guitarist of the classic rock band, The Skunks, whose sound channeled such groups as The Rolling Stones and The New York Dolls. Freedy Johnston is best known as a songwriter who can paint pictures with his lyrics and surround them with catchy music. Susan Cowsill was a member of the mid to late 1960s pop group The Cowsills. Lately, her music has veered in a pop/folk direction.

Sometimes when artists from different traditions come together the results can seem forced or out of sync. Graham, Johnston, and Cowsill play like they have been together for years. The lyrics tell stories about cooks, waitresses, dishwashers, truck-drivers, love, despair, and living in a car. The music ranges from catchy to gritty. Their voices blend together effortlessly into subtle and sometimes soaring harmonies.

The overall sound travels in a number of directions. There is some catchy pop, a little swamp rock that reminds you of Creedence Clearwater, and some Americana music that is similar to The Band. The album’s first track, “Ballad Of Sis (Didn’t I Love You),” is the catchiest track as it is a pop infused up-tempo romp.

There are a number of well-crafted and very listenable songs. “Why I Don’t Hunt” is an ominous sounding song right out of the Louisiana bayou. “Sweet Senorita” moves in a country direction. It is a mid-tempo piece with a lush, filled-in sound. “I Never Knew There Would Be You” and “All Things Being Equal” feature fine lead vocals, especially from Susan Cowsill whose soulful voice has become a wonderful instrument.

The second half of the album contains more of a stripped down sound. In a way it reminds me of some of Levon Helm’s solo music. “First Day On The Job,” “The Dishwasher,” and “I Am Sorry” are personal stories with gritty music.

At Least We Have Each Other is an enjoyable union of three talented artists who have been practicing their craft for decades. Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates good music.

Article first published as Music Review: The Hobart Brothers with Lil’ Sis Hobart – At Least We Have Each Other on Blogcritics.


All I Really Wanna Be Is Me 45 by The Cowsills

November 19, 2010

Everyone has ro start somewhere and The Cowsills started on the small Jada Label.

The five Cowsill brothers, Bill, Bob, Paul, Barry, John, their sister Susan, and mother Barbara were a light pop/rock group from Newport Rhode Island who produced such catchy hits as “The Rain, The Park & Other Things,” “Indian Lake,” “We Can Fly,” and a cover of “Hair.” The Partridge Family Televison program used the family as the original idea for the show.

Before their string of late sixties hits they released their first single on the old Jada label. It remains an obscure Cowsills and sixties collectable today.


Hair 45 by The Cowsills

November 12, 2010

The Cowsills were a family band from Newport, Rhode Island consisting of six siblings and their mother. They placed eight songs on The American singles chart 1967-1969. They are best remembered for “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things” which reached number two for two weeks during 1967.

Their only other top five hit also reached number number two for two weeks. Their cover of the title song from the hit Broadway musical HAIR was a big hit for the group during early 1969.

It may have been a pop presentation but they got the harmonies just right. One of the better concotions from this late sixties light rock band.


Lighthouse by Susan Cowsill

May 4, 2010

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