Why the name "Freakwater"?
When Amoeba Records approached them about making a record in 1988, they had no name. They came up with the name "Freakwater" believing it was a meaningless, made up word. However, it is a slang term for moonshine whiskey.
Where can I buy Freakwater's elusive first LP?
Good question. The LP is out of print and near impossible to find. Janet Bean explained the situation in an article in No Depression: "The fellow who put them out is out of Hollywood," Janet says sadly. "He became very bitter toward the music business because he wasn't getting paid what he should have from distributors. He just sort of shut down. He's held the tapes, and he won't give them to us, and he won't put them out, he won't do anything with him. I think he thinks he's going to make a lot of money off of us or something at some point. Crazy, you know."
"We've offered him money in the past, but nothing's ever really been satisfying for him. I think we might end up - since we never had a contract, and he never paid us a penny for any record we ever sold anyway - I think we probably have the right to remaster off the CD and re-release them. I think we're looking to do that, but, it's just a bad business-friend relationship."
My suggestion: if you have it put it on Napster and then we can download it and promise to buy it whenever it's re-released.
After hearing this song live 7/28/00, I have to say it doesn't sound like "leister," but I still don't know what it is.
Is One Big Union simply a rip-off of several old folk and union songs?
The insinuation has been made. Received an email in February 2000 from someone named Pappy Bagbalm: "Call me a little touchy, but whether they realize it or not there are several verse[s] in the song one big union that are in old folk songs and union songs. Which sound like they have taken the book Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hitting People by Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and compiled five different songs into one song."
"I have no problem with that (It's something that I wouldn't do), but copy write [sic] it and call it your own goes against what I think the song stands for. By doing this your [sic] no better then [sic] the scabs that replace the strikers on the line."
"Also did you know that One Big Union is the slogan for the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World)[?]"
What does the Freakwater have to say about it? When they were guests on the public radio show E-Town in 1998, Catherine Irwin introduced the song thus: "The greatest thing about this song is it caused us to get a letter from some Wobblies out in Oklahoma, which was like the biggest day of my life." ("Wobblies" is slang for I.W.W members.)
Another email received from Scott of Baltimore brings the issue a little more into perspective: "It's actually kind of a pastiche of union/labor songs (in fact, there's a Woody Guthrie song titled One Big Union, and another titled Which Side Are You On), but it's more a tribute/parody of these songs and others than a ripoff. The Guthrie song that shares the same title is a real gung-ho, pro-union number, but Catherine's song is world-weary and resigned to the fact that, well, 'even one big union can't help us now.' Most old labor/union songs are either heavily pushing the unions, or are lambasting the establishment. Catherine accomplishes something unique here; she lambasts both. Not a traditional stance by any means."
Catherine Irwin was in a punk band with her brother called the Dickbrains, but it's safe to say Freakwater is her primary claim to fame. She also teamed up the Sadies and sang on "Walkin' Cane" for the Knitters tribute album Poor Little Knitter On The Road (Bloodshot Records).
As for David Wayne Gay, it now seems that his string of side projects has been several incarnations of the same project [?], the latest being the Payday Knights. Singer/guitarist Chris Geer tells us that Payday Knights is "a classic country cover band. pure country." Geer also notes that the Unholy Trio backed Catherine Irwin at SXSW and also do a cover of Public Enemy's "Bring The Noise" featured on Bloodshot Records' 5th Anniversary Compilation CD, Down to the Promised Land: 5 Years of Bloodshot Records . White Heat was another project I could never find much information about, but Dave and Chris were in the band.
Other members who come and go - such as Max Konrad Johnston, Eric Heywood, and Bob Egan - have been involved in numerous other projects.