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Cut Yourself a Switch

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Album Review

After more than a decade of co-leading Freakwater, Catherine Ann Irwin has finally made a solo album, and it's a gem. Playing guitar and banjo, Irwin is joined only by longtime musical cohort Dave Gay (bass) on most tunes, but the sound is rich and full, thanks to Irwin's fine playing and wonderful voice, which recalls singers like Hazel Dickens and Sara Carter. Producers Bill Reynolds and Aaron Price have captured a warm and nuanced performance and gave Irwin's voice an amazing presence on this recording; it's the focal point and needs little else. Catherine Ann Irwin is a fine songwriter as well, dealing with the realities of the human condition with a keen eye, sharp wit, and oftentimes dark humor. Excellent originals like "Needle in a Haystack" and "Painting the River Red" are augmented by several well-chosen covers. Elvis Presley's "Power of My Love" and Johnny Paycheck's "The Only Hell My Momma Ever Raised" are given nice readings, as is "Will You Miss Me" by the Carter Family, clearly one of Irwin's main inspirations. Catherine Ann Irwin's voice and playing may hearken back to another time, but she is turning into one of the more individual singer/songwriters. Cut Yourself a Switch is an excellent solo debut and a great update on the old-timey sound.

Customer Reviews

If you like American music

This is quality true American country music. She is the essence of what our traditional music should be, lyrically, musically, as well as her voice. As I listen to what passes as country on the radio these days, I can't believe Irwin can be one of the best country artists in the country, and remain in relative obscurity. If you are sick of songs about drivin minivans, done to some crap rock/r&b beat and called country, check out this authentic music, and modern country will begin to hurt your ears. I'm glad she and Freakwater are out there.

American Treasure

I can't believe I didn't find this until today. I have been a fan of Irwin's lyrics and voice since the first Freakwater album was playing at someone's house the day a boyfriend dumped me there. Her sad songs are the absolute saddest and most beautiful.


Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Singer and songwriter Catherine Irwin is best known as a founding member of Freakwater, one of the most acclaimed alt-country acts of the 1980s and ‘90s. Both as a solo act and as a member of Freakwater, Irwin is celebrated for her evocative songs and spare, primarily acoustic music, which fuses with her rich but unpretentious vocals to evoke the spirit of Appalachian music of the ‘20s and ‘30s while dealing with subject matter that speaks to the present day. Catherine Ann Irwin was born in New Haven,...
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