Does anyone remember Freakwater? The band consisting of two vocal geniuses, Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin whom drew comparisons to practically every great country duo there ever was? Well, Cut Yourself a Switch marks the return of Freakwater, though this time vicariously through the workings of Catherine Irwin and her whisky-cigarette infused harmonies. Cut Yourself a Switch has all the country record elements; bitchin', moanin', slapped faces, shallow graves, and those oh-so strange lyrics but what makes this record special is Catherine Irwin. The whole disc has only one drum track. For most of the record, Catherine is solo with a banjo and guitar, and some light bass courtesy of Freakwater bassist David Wayne Gay (not to mention the occasional fiddle and accordion here and there). The instrumentation on this album never even steps foot in the shadow of Irwin's powerful vocals.
Irwin's strongest attribute is perhaps her ability to switch tones with her voice. On "Hex," Irwin's sound comes off as fragile, light and thin, whereas on "Swan Dive," (which features the albums best line: "That was now, this is then / That was Bourbon, this is gin / that's how we know that spring has sprung?") she delivers a powerful, viscous anthem. Then there is "Power of my Love," and Elvis remake, that features Irwin laying down sexy, seducing vocals.
A particular track I enjoyed was "My Old Unlucky Home Far Away," though the lyricism on this track is highly questionable: "Lay the damn thing down / and you'll find your precious needle laying right there on the ground??" Deep? I think not.
"Don't We all Have the Right to be Wrong" is a stellar Roger Miller cover, and "The Only Hell My Momma Ever Raised" pays a great respect to Johnny Paycheck. The standout track has to be "You Belong to Me" which features Irwin bouncing around the track with a doo-wop guitar. The Carter Family's suicide poem "Will You Miss Me" is was also redone by Irwin on this album, and "Cry Our Little Eyes Out" is a powerful country tale of a young girls death with witty, and intense lyrics strengthened by the wisdom of Irwin's ageless tonsils; "That clear blue sky comes like a slap across my face, / I want to close my eyes 'til the dark clouds roll in?"
After hearing an album like this from an artists like Irwin, I still find it hard to believe she spent her early career dabbing around in punk music. A solid record from a talented lady.