DEBRA COWAN - Dad’s Dinner Pail
Falling Mountain Music FM1044

Debra Cowan is a well-respected American singer who was once a resident artist at Sandy Bell’s Bar in Edinburgh and has since toured in the UK . Her clear, sweet voice holds echoes of early Joan Baez, and on this, her second album, she uses her graceful skills to present eleven songs from the Helen Hartness Flanders Collection. Mrs Flanders, the wife of a Vermont Senator, collected thousands of songs from New England source singers over three decades from 1930.

The chosen songs illustrate the variety in the collection, ranging over light ballads, music hall, maritime, devotional hymns, and ballads of misfortune and murder. After a shaky start, with forgettable renditions of ‘Bold Richard’ and hypothermia victim ‘Young Charlotte’, Debra finds the emotional intensity needed for ‘Cruel Brother’ and an unaccompanied ‘Burly Burly Banks of Barbry-O’ (a version of ‘The Bonny Banks o’ Fordie’) in which penknives are wielded to their usual lethal effect. The two hymns, ‘Star in the East’ and Charles Wesley’s ‘Fearless in the Fire’ are sung together with John Roberts and are searingly fine. Co-producer Michael DeLalla provides subtle guitar accompaniment on eight tracks.

This is recommended as an introduction to the Flanders Collection, which is a rich resource for those wishing to explore British-American song links.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 65 of The Living Tradition magazine.