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Late bloomer 

Susan Cowsill battles hurricanes and heartache
to release her solo debut

The youngest member of 1960s family band the Cowsills has grown up. Susan Cowsill's cherubic ragamuffin charm and the Rhode Island family's freak factor made Hollywood pay attention. They were the inspiration for the hit television series The Partridge Family.

Some 40 years later, the innocent days of sunshiny pop tunes the six youngsters and their mother Barbara crooned, are long gone. Tragedy hit the family on several levels in the past couple of years. Brother Barry was found drowned in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Then eldest brother Bill succumbed to emphysema at his adopted home Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Cowsill and her husband (and drummer) Russ Broussard call New Orleans home, too, but were also wiped out during the disaster. At the time, they were working on her first solo effort, Just Believe It, which was finally recorded late last year.

Since she was seven years old, Cowsill has made a career of blending in. She spent most of her musical life as a backing vocalist for the likes of Hootie & the Blowfish, Nanci Griffith, Giant Sand, the Smithereens, Carlene Carter, Jules Shear and others. She also joined the roots-pop alt-country group Continental Drifters, where she met her first and second husbands, Peter Holsapple of the dB's, and then Broussard.

So Cowsill stepping front-and-center after decades hidden behind a band or another superstar makes this solo effort significantly noteworthy. Just Believe It is a study in language she's fluent in: country-tinged, retro pop graciousness. Cowsill wrote or co-wrote all of it, except for a cover of Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes." She tapped friends Lucinda Williams, Vicki Peterson (ex-Bangle/Continental Drifter) and Counting Crows' Adam Duritz to provide backing vocals. The result is a sturdy collection of songs that showcase Cowsill's resilient vocals and distinguished songwriting talents. Better late than never.

Susan Cowsill plays the Evening Muse; August 3 at 8pm; $9. For more information visit www.susancowsill.com.

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