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Catherine Irwin
CUT YOURSELF A SWITCH
(THRILL JOCKEY)

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Catherine Irwin may be taking a break from her main gig as one of Freakwaterís two singer-songwriters, but on her debut solo album, she hasnít abandoned the stark honesty or old-time country music that has always defined the Freakwater sound. Her squeaky Kentucky voice and tender twang are well suited for these songs of death, failure, and longing. Sparse acoustic guitar and banjo strumming offer minimal support, though a few friends pitch in on bass, accordion, organ, and background vocals from time to time.

Many of the 12 tracks are Irwin originals, but she rises to the occasion on Elvisís Memphis-era " Power of My Love " and the Carter Family classic " Will You Miss Me, " an unflinching encounter with immortality. Despite the often plaintive subject matter, Irwin addresses each tune with a poetic poker face, even in " Swan Dive, " when sheís delivering lyrics like " Down by the riverbed/Where I plan to lay my head/I found myself a lovely place to drown. " And on " Hex, " a balladic ode to unrequited love, she doesnít flinch as she relates, " Will you know/Or must I tell you/This is my loverís spell/You have fallen into. " Her openness is mirrored in the bare, front-porch production, and there isnít an ounce of alterna-rock irony to be found anywhere. She simply lets her heart do the talking and doesnít let anything else get in the way.

BY ZOË GEMELLI

Issue Date: April 3 - 10, 2003
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