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End Time

Freakwater

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Album Review

With Freakwater records, continuity is a far greater trait than change or innovation. Yet this album does represent a significant advancement for the group, without altering the sound in any way that would alienate fans of their previous discs. The arrangements are fuller than ever before, without sounding overproduced — it's the first Freakwater record to have a full drum kit, and a three-piece string section appears on some tracks. This is also the first Freakwater album consisting entirely of compositions by the core duo of Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean. More noteworthy than any of these details, however, is the sheer level of vocal, musical, and lyrical accomplishment throughout, as well as the attention to diversity and nuance within their country/folk/alt-rock niche. At times this sounds like a pure country record (with lots of pedal steel) that's too country for Nashville; on "Good for Nothing" there's a Band-like organ that puts this in an early-'70s mood; "Sick, Sick, Sick" is just voice and what sounds like Dobro, getting close to country blues territory; "Dog Gone Wrong" has a honky tonk feel; and "All Life Long" is nearly Appalachian folk. It makes a reasonable contender for the best Freakwater release to date, as Bean and Irwin also maintain their high standard of moving vocal harmonies and clever, emotionally complex lyrics.

Biography

Formed: 1987 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Despite their alternative rock pedigree and their home on a label better known for experimental music, Freakwater was one of the most traditionally grounded bands on the alternative country scene. Singers/guitarists/songwriters Janet Beveridge Bean and Catherine Ann Irwin mix original material (with a contemporary lyrical perspective) and traditional covers, all done in a spare, acoustic country-folk style with close vocal harmonies. Their instrumentation often features string band staples like steel...
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End Time, Freakwater
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