Saturday, December 17; Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Avenue)

Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean, a.k.a. Freakwater, have reunited and released their first album in six years, Thinking of You... . To celebrate, sundry alt-weeklies have passed the Kool-Aid and raised toasts: Freakwater echoes the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers! Unlike glitzy Nashville bozos, Freakwater makes authentic country music! But this consensus owes to what, exactly? The fact that Bean and Irwin sing doom-laden songs with out-of-tune authenticity? There's more to a murder ballad than killin', and vocal chops — especially in the harmony department — all but define country tradition. Bean and Irwin, by contrast, harmonize like possums in heat. But their gothified twang finds its own harrowing level, a raw heat generated from the uneasy friction of delicate melodies and two piercing, original voices.

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