As a young girl Debra idolised Julie Andrews and then in her teens discovered Jethro Tull and Steeleye Span. At the age of 21 she needed escape out of a small Midwestern town in the USA 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 maths teacher. She continued her discovery of folk with English singers like Sandy Denny 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. 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 “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.

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.

Debra Cowan