Dancing Under Water, Freakwater's first long-player, is insurgent country music for people who believe that the film Deliverance says more about the true nature of rural folks than it does about the fears and prejudices of city dwellers. The songs, just under half of which are original, fixate on the folk traditions of murder ballads and "dead child" songs, performed simply with ragged duet harmonies in a modern approximation of the Carter Family. The difference between Freakwater and the early country artists who performed similar material is that Freakwater approaches (and, in some cases, writes) these songs from an ironic distance with an indie rock perspective. Some listeners may wish that Catherine Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean had practiced their vocal parts a few more times before committing them to tape, but the general audience for this music will relish its naïve primitivism. The pedal steel and Dobro, contributed by John Spiegel and John Rice, add a professional touch, although the cover of George Jones' minor hit "You're Still on My Mind" shows that the group is better off when they avoid straight country. Other covers include Jon Anderson's number one hit "Wild and Blue" (also recorded by the Mekons around this time) and Bill Monroe's "Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake." Dancing Under Water was originally paired with Freakwater's self-titled debut mini-album for CD release, but was reissued by Thrill Jockey in 1997 without the bonus.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Greg Adams