Album review by James Clarke.
Today marks the release of Scheherazade, Freakwater’s first album in ten years and the first on Chicago’s Bloodshot label.
Scheherazade is a fabled Persian girl whose storytelling so captivates a murderous king that he falls in love with her and makes her his queen. The storytelling of Freakwater’s Scheherazade does not disappoint as the opening track “What People Want” supplants the listener into a gruesome murder scene— so deep in blood the deed was done.
The vocal pairing of Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean is best known for their beautiful harmonies and vocal role swaps from lead to supporting, complementing and contradicting as they share gypsy tales through the Alt-country lens.
Scheherazade provides an extraordinary range, from the dreamy open of “Bolshevik and Bollweevil” —The sky was black like caviar/every egg was a twinkling star to the voodoo spookiness of “Falls of Sleep“ —-There’s treachery that awaits us— to the heartfelt hymn “Take Me With You.”
The most delicate moments of the album occur in “Skinny Knee Bones.” A soft spoken introduction and traditional trade-offs lead to carve it away until you find/the marble girl who’s left behind/inside this block of stone…. The song then departs from trademark Freakwater harmonies , creating a dissonance—where vocals compete rather than compliment—building into pleas of the narrator’s conscience, bet it all on black/bet it all on black.
The album ends with the mournful while you’re here /hopeful when you’re not “Ghost Song”—So long/ how long will you be gone?
Hopefully not as long between Bloodshot releases, Freakwater.
Freakwater plays The Hideout March 18. For information, click here.