FREAKWATER

"Thinking of You . . . "

Thrill Jockey

Although not the most celebrated of indie-rock-go-bluegrass combos, Freakwater was one of the first. The part-time band released its debut album in 1989, three years before singer-actor Will Oldham began recording similar laments under a string of cracker-barrel pseudonyms. Like Oldham, Freakwater principals Janet Beveridge Bean (also of Eleventh Dream Day) and Catherine Irwin are originally from Kentucky and are clearly steeped in that high lonesome sound. "Thinking of You . . . ," the band's seventh album, is about 95 percent pure old-timey music.

Officially, Freakwater comprises only Bean, Irwin and bassist Dave Gay, but this album features large contributions from its producer, multi-instrumentalist Tim Rutili, and several other members of his band, Califone. Yet the focus remains Bean and Irwin's voices, intertwining plaintively on ballads of love, drink and salvation. "So Strange" switches to a jauntier tempo, and Rutili's guitar gives the album-closing "Hi Ho Silver" a hint of epic-rock, but they're not typical. The album's heart is in such songs as "Buckets of Oil" and "Loserville," which are slow, stately and piercingly bereft.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Monday at Iota with the Zincs.