Catherine Irwin

Cut Yourself a Switch

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After more than a decade of co-leading Freakwater, Catherine Ann Irwin has finally made a solo album, and it's a gem. Playing guitar and banjo, Irwin is joined only by longtime musical cohort Dave Gay (bass) on most tunes, but the sound is rich and full, thanks to Irwin's fine playing and wonderful voice, which recalls singers like Hazel Dickens and Sara Carter. Producers Bill Reynolds and Aaron Price have captured a warm and nuanced performance and gave Irwin's voice an amazing presence on this recording; it's the focal point and needs little else. Catherine Ann Irwin is a fine songwriter as well, dealing with the realities of the human condition with a keen eye, sharp wit, and oftentimes dark humor. Excellent originals like "Needle in a Haystack" and "Painting the River Red" are augmented by several well-chosen covers. Elvis Presley's "Power of My Love" and Johnny Paycheck's "The Only Hell My Momma Ever Raised" are given nice readings, as is "Will You Miss Me" by the Carter Family, clearly one of Irwin's main inspirations. Catherine Ann Irwin's voice and playing may hearken back to another time, but she is turning into one of the more individual singer/songwriters. Cut Yourself a Switch is an excellent solo debut and a great update on the old-timey sound.

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