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Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean in 2006
Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean in 2006
Background information
OriginLouisville, Kentucky U.S.
GenresAlternative country
Years active1989–present
LabelsAmeoba Records, Thrill Jockey, Bloodshot, Glitterhouse, City Slang
MembersCatherine Irwin
Janet Beveridge Bean
Dave Gay
Past membersJohn Alexander Spiegel
Dan Scanlan
Peter Searcy
James Bond
Matthew 'Wink' O'Bannon
John Rice
Brian Dunn
Lisa Marsicek
Bob Egan
Max Konrad Johnston
Joel Batty
Brendan Burke
John Nickels

Freakwater is an American alternative country band from Louisville, Kentucky, with one co-founding member living in Chicago.[1] Freakwater is known for the lead vocals of Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin, who mix harmony and melody in idiosyncratic dissonant country-folk that is reminiscent of the Carter Family.[2][3][4]


Thrill Jockey[edit]

In 1989, Janet Beveridge Bean (of rock band Eleventh Dream Day) and Catherine Irwin founded the band, and they have been supported by several musicians since then, including members of Califone (2005 Thinking of You tour). Bassist David Wayne Gay, formerly of Stump The Host, is another long-time member of the band. They released their records on Chicago's Thrill Jockey label.[5] From 2006 to 2013, Bean and Irwin worked on other projects. A reissue of 1993's Feels Like the Third Time as a 20-year anniversary restarted the duo playing together as Freakwater.[6] In 2014, the band went out on the road, touring and playing the record as their main set.[7]

Bloodshot Records[edit]

In February 2016, Freakwater released the record Scheherazade on Bloodshot Records. In advance of the full-length record—-the duo's first record since 2005-—Freakwater released a single called "The Asp And The Albatross".[8]


In 2013, and again in September 2017 and July 2021, Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin of Freakwater joined together with Jon Langford and Sally Timms of the Mekons to be the Freakons, performing original and cover songs about coal mining in Appalachia, England, and Wales, to support the non-profit organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. Each time, the Freakons performed at the Hideout in Chicago, and elsewhere in Wisconsin. In 2013, they also performed at San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. In 2017, they were accompanied by violinists Jean Cook of New York City and Anna Krippenstapel of Louisville (The Other Years, Joan Shelley, etc.), and, only in Chicago, by Chicago/Louisville guitarist James Elkington (The Horse's Ha, etc.). In 2021, the same line-up, without Elkington, performed, and they released the live album Freakons, recorded at the 2017 Chicago performances. [9][10][11][12][13][14][15]




  • 1989: Freakwater (Amoeba Records)
  • 1991: Dancing Under Water / Freakwater (Amoeba Records)
  • 1993: Feels Like the Third Time (Thrill Jockey;City Slang)
  • 1995: Old Paint (Thrill Jockey; City Slang)
  • 1995: June 6, 1994 (Glitterhouse Records)
  • 1997: Dancing Under Water LP/CD (Thrill Jockey)
  • 1998: Springtime LP/CD (Thrill Jockey)
  • 1999: End Time LP/CD (Thrill Jockey)
  • 2005: Thinking of You... (Thrill Jockey)
  • 2016: Scheherazade (Bloodshot Records)


  • 1990: "Your Goddamned Mouth" / "War Pigs" (1 1/4 York Records)
  • 1993: "My Old Drunk Friend" / "Kentucky" (Thrill Jockey)
  • 1995: "South of Cincinnati" / "Cut Me Out" (Thrill Jockey)
  • 1999: "Hellbound" / "Lorraine" (Thrill Jockey)
  • 2015: "The Asp & The Albatross" / "Fullerene" (Bloodshot Records)


Catherine Irwin solo (partial)[edit]

  • 2003: Cut Yourself A Switch (Thrill Jockey)
  • 2012: Little Heater (Thrill Jockey)

Janet Bean solo (partial)[edit]

  • 1992: Jesus Built A Ship To Sing To - Jeff Lescher & Janet Beveridge Bean (released under the name "Jeff and Janet") (Megadisc)
  • 2004: Dragging Wonder Lake (Thrill Jockey)



  1. ^ Ratliff, Ben (19 February 1998). "In Performance; Pop". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  2. ^ Cooper, Duncan (20 January 2016). "Freakwater Still Rules, 30 Years Later". The FADER. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  3. ^ Gendron, Bob (23 January 2013). "Freakwater spotlights mood and melody at the Hideout". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  4. ^ Kemp, Mark (2007). "Freakwater". Trouser Press. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  5. ^ Reger, Rick (12 October 1995). "Freakwater: Old Paint". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  6. ^ Hopper, Jessica (17 January 2013). "Freakwater back with a melodic bang, no whimper". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  7. ^ Adrian (August 3, 2015). "Interview with Janet Beveridge Bean (Eleventh Dream Day)". DOA.
  8. ^ Siregar, Cady (3 November 2015). "Freakwater – "The Asp And The Albatross" (Stereogum Premiere)". Stereogum. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  9. ^ Rami (4 September 2013). "Bloodshot News: Mekons + Freakwater = Freakons!". Bloodshot Records. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  10. ^ "2013". Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. 2013. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  11. ^ Kendrick, Monica (31 August 2017). "Alt-country heroes Freakwater and postpunk lifers the Mekons come together to get their Freakons". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  12. ^ Loerzel, Robert (19 September 2017). "Freakons at the Hideout and the Shitty Barn". Loerzel, Robert. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  13. ^ "Freakons (early patio show)". Hideout. 8 June 2021. Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  14. ^ "Fluff & Gravy Records". Fluff & Gravy Records. 2021. Retrieved 2021-07-30.
  15. ^ a b Freakons [album liner notes]. Fluff & Gravy Records. 2021.
  16. ^ Vitali, Marc (November 7, 2019). "Chicago's Bloodshot Records Celebrates 25th Anniversary". WTTW. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  17. ^ "Too Late to Pray: Defiant Chicago Roots". Bloodshot Records. 2019. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  18. ^ Kendrick, Monica (July 8, 2021). "The Pine Valley Cosmonauts make Tom Waits's 1973 debut feel relevant for our times". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2021-07-18.

External links[edit]