Freakwater, Buckner team up
TT the Bears, Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 22, 1997
By Jeffrey B. Remz
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. - Freakwater may never - and probably won't - gain the acclaim of several of their brethren in the Chicago scene.
After slogging on for 14 years, the band - led by singers Catherine Ann Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean - got the goods for the most part, but seem destined never to rise above.
The dearth of recorded material for their time together could be one explanation, although a reissue is due out later this year.
And Bean's involvement with her other band, Eleventh Dream Day, could be another.
But in concert, the quartet showed they know how to play it right, even if it is ragged.
The focal points clearly are Bean and Irwin, who was a bit under the weather. Bean has clear, pretty vocals. Irwin possessed a more forceful version of Emmylou Harris qvocally. Each singer delivered the songs with a stark simplicity .
And when they sang together, which was often, they harmonized quite well.
"Jesus Year," a song about turning 33, showed that they could belt out a song.
The playing and feel of the 75-minute set was that these guys know how to play, but they didn't care too much about exactly how they played it. "Hero Heroine," for example, had to be restarted after a flubbed start.
Former Wilco member Max Johnston, who has recently played with the band, aided on mandolin, while Dave Gay was upright bass in the quartet with no drummer.
Irwin and Bean bantered back and forth, although sometimes you got the feeling it was a running, inside joke with the comments meant for each other instead of the audience.
Slated to return to the studio in late winter/early spring, it will be interesting if after all these years Freakwater gains more attention, something they deserve.
Richard Buckner, whose MCA debut is out in March,had a country flavor to his songs with lots of pedal steel, but he is more squarely placed in the singer/songwriter school of music.
Buckner suffered from much too much similiarty in the songs and not too much of a stage presence. He often sang with his eyes closed as if that move the songs up an emotional notch. And he came off as being aloof, barely speaking to the crowd.
Local band Lincoln 65 opened with a hit and miss set. The band came off more as Jay Farrar wannabes without much distinction.