Along with Alice Cooper, Freakwater has the distinction of recording one of the finest dead-baby songs of all time. But that’s probably where the similarities between the two end. Fronted by Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean, Freakwater is to contemporary country music what a backwoods still is to a bottle of Maker’s Mark. Mixing equal measures of originals and well-chosen covers, Irwin and Bean bypass the all-too-familiar Moby Garth school of country music for the genre’s dark, gnarled roots, and what they come up with is more than mere revivalism. As its new record on Thrill Jockey, Feels Like the Third Time, amply attests, Freakwater has tapped into the turbulent, edgy emotions that have long been the source of much of country music’s finest songwriting. Irwin’s ragged drawl and Bean’s clarion keening sharply complement each other to create beautiful, rough-hewn harmonies; Dave Gay’s mellow bass has all the gentle ambience of a swinging screen door on a hot August day; and Brian Dunn’s guitar playing is that rare example of virtuosity through restraint. This isn’t country music the way it used to be; it’s country music the way it ought to be. Thursday, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Guy Dave.