Freakwater, Jaye Jayle, Morgan Geer's Drunken Prayer | Hideout | Folk & Country | Chicago Reader

Freakwater, Jaye Jayle, Morgan Geer's Drunken Prayer Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Image

When: March 18-19, 9 p.m. 2016

In the 11 years since the last Freakwater album the outlook of Catherine Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean toward the travails of everyday life hasn’t much brightened. The group’s strong new album Scheherazade (Bloodshot) opens with “What the People Want,” a stark murder ballad written by Irwin that contains no temporal markers in describing the grisly murder of a girl who was split “from stem to stern” and thrown down a well. The chorus asks “Whose baby are you?,” which seems like a blunt indictment of humanity’s general cruelty and helps describe America’s current ugliness. Cut in Louisville—both singers grew up there—the record features a mostly new cast of collaborators (though stalwart bassist David Gay returns) and a fuller sound that moves easily between bluegrass, old-time, honky-tonk, and even garage rock on “Down Will Come Baby.” That Bean original is one of several that employ poetic language to convey betrayal and distrust (“Desperation builds in the hearts of thieves / With a pitch as black as the high hazel seam”). Freakwater’s core sextet is augmented by a number of cameos—both Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis and Chicago guitar ace James Elkington make appearances—but despite the band’s new complexion, the rustic beauty of the songs remains instantly recognizable, as do the sweet-sour harmonies of Irwin and Bean. They’ve always been keen observers of human weakness, but now their honeyed melodic sensibility is all there is to balance the darkness.

Peter Margasak

Price: $20, 3/18 sold out

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