Their first record in more than a decade sees alt.country stalwarts Freakwater back to their dissonant best, an album that rumbles with a menacing intent as it lurches left and right, sometimes straight and true, mostly through gnashed teeth as it tries to birth itself onto some old bar room floor in time for last call.
Based around the vocal harmonies of Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin, as it has been since the band's inception in Louisville in the late '80s, Scheherazade grows from country roots (The Asp and the Albatross, Skinny Knee Bone, Missionfield), but manages to branch out into '60s-era psych (Down Will Come Baby), eerie gothic (Falls of Sleep, Ghost Song) and backwoods grass (What the People Want).
A crack session band, among them the Dirty Three's Warren Ellis contributing haunting fiddle and flute, flesh the sound out as Bean and Irwin concentrate on their intertwining voices – a combination that sometimes soars, sometimes fights in the dirt but always makes an odd sort of sense. Which in a way, encapsulates the entire album. One of the best modern interpretations of country music I've heard.
Samuel J. Fell