Thinking of You

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End Time was a major step for Freakwater, changing the sound of the band from its strictly acoustic origins without changing the feel of the band. Thinking of You takes another step in that evolution, but manages to achieve the same balancing act: a fuller sound that never abandons the past. This time out, producer Tim Rutili and the band enlist the other members of Califone to add to and expand the Freakwater sound, but it's still the sharp songwriting and vocal harmonies that carry the tunes. Freakwater albums are still the domain of the lovelorn and downtrodden, where alcohol is just about the only solace and circumstances are met with a weary acceptance just shy of hope and a dash of gallows humor, like in "Loserville": "where the bourbon flows like a river, so deep and still" or the "friend who tried to give me the good news, like solace candy found in pills and booze." Tales of loss and loneliness are the order of the day, perhaps most poignantly on "Cathy Ann," which isn't about Catherine Ann Irwin at all, but about one of Woody Guthrie's children who died following a fire caused by an electrical short. And unlike folks like the Carter Family, who turned to the Lord in times of need, religion offers no redemption in Freakwater songs ("Hi ho Silver, high on pills/Use your hands and tell me how I feel/Higher power, higher hand of mine/Tell me why your god is so divine"). There's even a nod toward the political (something new for Freakwater) in "Buckets of Oil," "where the winners and the losers, from sea to shining sea, have been bought and sold and most often have for free." The talented men of Califone provide sympathetic backing, adding everything from distorted bass clarinet to pump organ and tremolo guitar, but never get in the way of the songs. There's even some buzzing feedback guitar in one spot (the likes of which have never been heard on a Freakwater album before), but again, it never intrudes or takes the spotlight from the vocals or the song itself. The focus, however, is always those gorgeous aching vocal harmonies and the great set of all-original tunes. Freakwater might often sound like a band from another time, but their attitude couldn't be more contemporary, a dichotomy nicely summed up by the title and cover art, with "Thinking of You..." accompanied by a flaming bouquet of red roses. It's another excellent offering from Freakwater.

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