Detering Good Times and Eyeballs With Sharp Instruments and Wit

Since 1986, Freakwater's Catherine Irwin and Janet Beveridge Beam have understood alt-Americana as just another facet of scrappy Louisville punk: Freakwater's country is dark and nasty, imperfectly sung by two women who probably wouldn't hesitate to scoop your eyeballs out with finger picks. On Thinking of You ..., their seventh full-length, the band's undercooked folk songs are lifted by Chicago's Califone, whose pedal steel and pump organ accentuate Freakwater's Appalachian despair. The perky "Jack the Knife" laments the loss of a blade "left behind," quite possibly in someone's chest ("Spiraling downward/ Long red ribbons to the ground/ Turn it smooth as a razor/Where the skin came all unwound"), while Evelyn Weston's musical saw giggles toothily at the bloodshed, all chuckles and sighs. Meanwhile, the honking, full-band bluster (supposedly inspired by Elvis's soundtrack work) of "So Strange" serves as apt warning to future heartbreakers. Appropriately, Thinking of You . . . boasts wicked cover art, all Hallmark-cursive and burning red roses: Once again, Freakwater choose death and liquor over tissues and chocolates. Watch your back.

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