The oft-stated influence of the Carter Family is plentifully heard in the music of alt-country duo Catherine Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean. But lyrically -- thanks to the slightly skewed worldview of primary songwriter Irwin -- the band manages to hold tight to the genre's plaintive angst while stretching the fabric of more traditional country themes.
Of course, it could be that Irwin's outlook is merely a matter of perspective. She's written songs on rooftops (where she goes to paint) as well as in her car.
"I have to drive around a lot," she says from her Louisville home. "And the radio in my car doesn't work, so it makes it kind of a good place to be forced to practice singing and stuff. I think if my radio did work, I would only write about half as many songs as I do."
Consider "Cricket Versus Ant" from Freakwater's new album, Thinking of You . . . , in which the reddish insects are subjected to the human-instigated rigors of both fire and flood.
"It's like an Aesop's fable," Irwin says, alluding to the tale "The Ant and the Grasshopper." "I actually always really hated that story. It always made me really aggravated and angry. I just really hate the kind of smugness of the ant.
"I've always taken that really personally, because I'm obviously the one that's going to be outside in the snow looking through the window. So that story's always just really disturbed me. But I think I can forget about that now. The purpose of writing songs like that, to me, is then you can just stop thinking about that thing that's bothering you."