CATHERINE ANN IRWIN Cut Yourself A Switch (Thrill Jockey) Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Catherine Irwin's is a voice that's spent half its life hollering down a dirt road at a no-good lover who done her wrong, and the other half soothing young 'uns to sleep with bittersweet lullabies. The Freakwater co-captain's solo disc is stunning, a set of stripped-down Appalachian folk tunes and raw country ballads that ache with authenticity. Irwin keeps it simple for the most part, with bass and wobbly fingerpicked acoustic guitar and occasional accents of bluegrass fiddle and mandolin cushioning her vibrant vocals; the production (by Bill Reynolds and Aaron Price) similarly cuts the bells 'n' whistles. But, oh, that voice. Check how she slips from jilted lover in Needle In A Haystack to swaggerin' girl Elvis in the Presley chestnut Power Of My Love, and you'll see how she speaks volumes with a single note.