Through the years singers Cathy Irwin and Janet Bean, along with longtime bassist Dave Gay, have added some instrumental variety to their records by bringing in a single player like Jon Spiegel, Brian Dunn, Bob Egan, or Max Johnston. But on their last album, End Time (1999), they brought in a string section and full band, and for their first record in six years, the new Thinking of You (Thrill Jockey), they got some wide-ranging help from key members of Califone. Even so, the music is unmistakably Freakwater: the songs are defined by the way Irwin's earthy, unpolished cry and Bean's delicate holler alternately clash and braid together. Their lyrics are mostly nervy portraits of doomed romance--they nail the way lovers suffer pain and misery in relationships and take pleasure in dispensing abuse. But "Buckets of Oil" is a seething indictment of the Bush administration's deceptions in Iraq, and "Cathy Ann" is a poignant elegy for Woody Guthrie's daughter Cathy Ann, who died in a fire at the age of four. The Califone folks do an expert job at fleshing out the moods of the songs, bringing a Stonesy swagger to "Hi Ho Silver" and an old-timey wheeze to "Cricket vs. Ant." For this show the core trio will be joined by Spiegel (pedal steel), Jim Becker (fiddle, keyboards, guitar, vocals), and Joe Adamik (piano, horns). This show is part of the Hideout Block Party, which starts at 7 PM today; see page 62 for the full schedule. Fri 9/16, 8:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $10. All ages.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Drew Reynolds.