Link to Living Tradition Homepage





DEBRA COWAN - Greening The Dark 

DEBRA COWAN - Greening The Dark 
Muzzy House Music MHM819 

Debra Cowan had the most adventurous of beginnings. Abandoning a settled career in education at the age of 21, she threw darts at a map and ended up in northern California. Her discovery of folk included listening to English singers like Maddy Prior and Scottish singers like Ray Fisher. This led to visits to England and Scotland where she hosted a Monday night session in Sandy Bell’s Bar in Edinburgh and honed her vocal and presentation craft. Relocating back to the USA, her music always had a strong Anglo-American approach and style.

About 20something years ago in the pages of Dirty Linen magazine I came across Debra Cowan’s name for the first time. Since then I have heard some of her albums and welcomed her collaboration with ex-Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks. We connected again more recently on the release of her album, Fond Desire Farewell, again produced by Dave Mattacks. What stood out here was her high clear voice, adroit playing, and a good ear for suitable songs which she interprets with skill and panache. Their most recent united effort is this six-track mini-album which sees the American singer diving into folk rock styles and idioms. The collection of mostly traditional songs comes from Irish/Anglo American lineage, and includes The Hills Of Greenmore, a hunting ballad from Keady Co Armagh, Lester Simpson’s Polly On The Shore, Richard Thompson’s The Old Changing Way, and songs by Emily Portman and John Tams. Each choice shows an eye for articulate lyrics and an ability to find vehicles for strong confident singing with deft instrumental touches and superior production. Greening The Dark highlights an underrated muse and one worth discovering. The sensitive production work of Dave Mattacks with Duke Levine, Richard Gates, Joyce Andersen, John Roberts and others adds the icing on an already impressive cake. Highly recommended.

John O’Regan


This review appeared in Issue 131 of The Living Tradition magazine