When: Fri., Dec. 14, 9 p.m. 2012
In a recent online interview for No Depression, Freakwater cofounder Catherine Irwin shrugs off the supposed importance of change and development for musicians: "People like to believe in 'progress.' I don't really care about it. A lot of the musicians I really admire just do what they do." Given that Irwin practices what she preaches—her songs achieve their profound emotional impact without breaking any ground she hasn't covered already—it's a little frustrating that she took a decade to put out her second solo album, the excellent new Little Heater (Thrill Jockey). "Dusty Groove," which Kelly Hogan covers on I Like to Keep Myself in Pain, is about how Dusty Springfield's beautiful songs seem to speak directly to Irwin about her daily life ("Read my mind / How was my day today"), and Irwin herself writes material that can do the same for her own fans. On "To Break Your Heart" she captures the balled-up anger that fuels revenge: "Sending out a signal / Banging out a code / Wedding ring against a bottle / Boot heels against the road." On "Nightshade" she borrows images from farming to convey the lingering pain of a failed romance: "Fields will lie fallow / Beneath vines gone sallow / Revealed with a twist of the spade." Compared with her first solo album, Little Heater is lush, with strings, keyboards, pedal steel, and vocal harmonies by Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Tara Jane O'Neil (who also plays percussion and Wurlitzer). But "lush" is relative here: the arrangements are rustic and sparse, framing Irwin's cracked drawl with old-timey austerity. For all its vintage atmosphere, though, the music clearly aims for timelessness. Tonight Irwin accompanies herself on guitar, joined by fiddler Anna Krippenstapel, who played here recently in Joan Shelley's June Brides, and guitarist Jonathan Glen Wood of Louisville band Old Baby. —Peter Margasak Mr. Rudy Day headlines; Catherine Irwin and Rachel Ries with David Vandervelde open.