Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Susan Cowsill at SXSW; new album scheduled

NEW ORLEANS, La. — Lighthouse, Susan Cowsill’s second solo album, is scheduled for May 18, 2010 release on Threadhead Records. The singer/songwriter is a magnificent example of the immense talent being nurtured in New Orleans right now, and she is scheduled to perform several showcases later this month at SXSW.

Susan first entered the pop-culture spotlight at the age of eight, as the youngest member of the ’60s musical family the Cowsills. She reemerged decades later in New Orleans as a member of the alt-pop supergroup the Continental Drifters. In 2005, Susan made an inspired solo debut with Just Believe It, but soon had to deal with multiple tragedies -- the deaths of Susan’s brothers Billy and Barry, and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which temporarily displaced Susan and her family from her adopted hometown.

“Lighthouse was written over the last four years during our recovery from Hurricane Katrina,” she says. “As you might guess, the songs on this record are pulled from the very deep well of this most life changing experience. Having lost 99.9% of our material and emotional belongings, and one whole human being, my brother Barry Cowsill, there was much to say and feel and express. It has taken all this time to pull ourselves back together to even be able to form comprehensible sentences never mind full on songs.”

She adds, “I would say that the music on this record is best described as songs about the loss of a world and a lifetime that no longer exists. It is about the uncertainty of the days, weeks and months that were ahead of us. And at the same time, it is the music of hope and faith and survival. The renewal of our city, our families and most importantly our souls.”

The tribulations of the past few years resonate throughout Lighthouse. Cowsill’s new songs reflect the hard-won lessons of her recent experiences, while maintaining the unmistakable sense of optimism and spirituality that’s always been at the heart of her work. That indomitable spirit is reflected in the infectious grit of such emotionally vivid originals as “ONOLA,” “Sweet Bitter End,” “The Way That It Goes” and “Avenue of the Indians,” which features guest vocals by longtime friend and admirer Jackson Browne.

In addition to Susan’s own compositions, Lighthouse includes an impassioned reading of the late Barry Cowsill’s “River of Love,” which features soaring harmonies by Susan’s brothers Bob, Paul and John Cowsill, as well as sister-in-law (and Bangles/Continental Drifters member) Vicki Peterson, and renowned session guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who began his career playing with the Cowsills in the 1960s. Another highlight is a distinctive, stripped-down reworking of the Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb classic “Galveston,” which demonstrates Susan’s status as a peerless interpretive singer.

Cowsill further explains, “Going through Katrina was most certainly like experiencing a death. The time in between the storm and the making of Lighthouse was the grieving period, and the recording of the music was the funeral, laying it all to rest, saying goodbye, and starting over.

“So here we are, in our new world. And this world is filled with beauty and light and excitement, and the new found knowledge that the present is really all that we have, because everything can change in the blink of an eye . . .hey . . .that sounds like a song comin’ on . . . gotta go!”

SXSW Austin appearances next week:

Wed, March 17, time TBA - Roadhouse Rags, 1600 Fortview
Thurs., March 18 , 3 p.m. - The Dog and Duck, 406 W. 17th St. at Guadalupe

Thurs., March 18, 12 midnight - G&S Lounge, 2420 S. 1st St.
Fri., March 20 - 8 p.m. - Official SXSW Showcase at Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn
Sat., March 21 - 8 p.m.- Opal Divine's, 700 W. 6th St.

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