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Biography

Deb2_2.2015 copySome Formidable Facts:

  • Left a career in Education to pursue a career as a folksinger
  • Held the Monday night residency at Sandy Bell’s Bar, Edinburgh’s premier folk music pub
  • Included in many compilations, notably the 2006 Free-Reed Records box set “RT-The Life and Times of Richard Thompson”
  • Has worked with many prominent musicians such as Dave Mattacks, Brooks Williams and Bill Cooley
  • Served as AFM Local 1000 USA Vice President from 2011-2016

 

Debra Cowan was once asked what kind of songs she writes. Her reply? “Bad ones. Besides, there are so many good songs out there written by others and they should be sung.” Her captivating warm alto carries each folk song she chooses with such emotion that you’ll forget that they were written by others. She performs a cappella and with guitar in the great tradition of folk singers like Joan Baez and Judy Collins, with a clear vocal that calls forth the ghosts of long past but can also offer a more modern urban landscape. In her newest release, a live recording entitled “Among Friends”, she demonstrates her ability to interact with her audience and have them enthusiastically sing along on choruses and refrains.

As a young girl she idolized Julie Andrews and in her teens discovered Jethro Tull and Steeleye Span. At the age of 21 she needed escape out of a small Midwestern town so she threw darts at a map and ended up in northern California where she attended college, sang in bars, and eventually worked as a middle school math teacher. She continued her discovery of folk with English singers like Maddy Prior and Scottish singers like Ray Fisher. Debra started performing in California 35 years ago and began touring in 1998, with frequent stops in the US and UK, from folk clubs to festivals like the Old Songs Festival and Broadstairs Folk Week in England. That led her to where she is now, a full-time singer who bridges the old and new with a refreshing stage presence — she may start with a moving ballad like “The Rainbow,” a profile of one woman’s courage, and segue into “Johnny Be Fair,” about a poor lass who can’t marry anyone in town because, well, she’s related to everyone.

Debra’s shared the stage and sung with artists as varied as Colum Sands, Tret Fure, and Si Kahn. For the last six years she has been joining her good friend, John Roberts for a number of tours and her newest CD, “Ballads Long & Short”. She has collaborated with well-known guitarists Brooks Williams, Bill Cooley (Kathy Mattea) and British fiddler Tom Leary. Her third solo recording, “Fond Desire Farewell” was arranged and produced by former Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks. She’s performed in many prestigious UK venues and for six months in the late 90’s held a residency at Sandy Bell’s Bar, Edinburgh’s premier folk music pub. She has performed many times on nationally syndicated American live radio shows such as WFMT’s Folkstage, hosted by Rich Warren and Tom May’s River City Folk.

Her recordings have won high praise from both sides of the Atlantic and her music has been included in many compilation recordings, most notably on the 2006 Free-Reed Records box set “RT-The Life and Times of Richard Thompson” and the 2014 “Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie”. When Debra isn’t touring internationally, she makes her home near Worcester, Massachusetts with her husband and their two cats, Hazel ‘n Herman.

 

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