JANET BEVERIDGE BEAN
(Eleventh Dream Day, Freakwater)
answers the MUSIC WORKS Questionnaire
I’m self-taught on all other instruments other than clarinet and piano which I studied as a child, but I don’t really consider them formal training, or at least training that I currently fall back on. There is no formal training for how to be in bands for 40 years. There are only lessons to be learned on the job in how to be a reasonable and a contributing band member.
2. CREATIVE LIFE HIGHLIGHTS?
Eleventh Dream Day just played a 40th anniversary show at a beloved venue in Chicago, a venue which was also celebrating its 40th anniversary. It’s the venue where in the 90s Nirvana opened for us, Smashing Pumpkins opened up for us and we opened up for many of the bands we love: Mission of Burma, the Fall, our dear friends Yo La Tengo. Anyway, our 40th Anniversary show was an amazing night. My son, with Rick Rizzo, opened up the night with his band Horizon of Darkness. His drummer is Spencer Tweedy, Jeff Tweedy’s son. The second band was Lifeguard, they’re maybe 18 years old and one of the members is the son of someone else deep in the Chicago music scene. So it was this sweet combination of a new generation of musicians, some joining the family business so to speak, and old musicians. The circle of life! On top of that, the crowd was showing us deep love and enthusiasm for it all. It was just the best night.
3. WHAT AMBITIONS DO YOU STILL HAVE TO FULFIL?
Musically speaking it’s simple. My ambition is to continue to have the opportunity to create music that satisfies me with interesting and enjoyable musicians. I love exploring new ways to musically participate with others.
4. SONGS YOU WISH YOU HAD WRITTEN?
That’s a complex question. If I pick a widely loved song that would mean I would be famous and I’ve never really wanted that pressure. I guess if it didn’t make me a huge star I would say the Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol or maybe Cyprus Avenue or any of Satie’s Gymnopedies.
5. DESERT ISLAND DISCS?
Astral Weeks is a foundational album for me. So that for sure, but that’s for when you’re feeling the weight of being on a deserted island. Neil’s On The Beach also for feeling the struggle cuz I figure there will be a lot of that But, if I needed to get work done; gather thatching for shelter, coconuts for sustenance, it would be The Modern Lovers. Finally, for feeling the joy of simple living I would pick Dusty in Memphis and sing along at the top of my lungs.
6. FAVOURITE ARTISTS/BANDS OF ALL TIME?
Anselm Kiefer may be my favorite visual artist currently. Musical artists would be Van Morrison, excluding his recent very bad turn of politics mucking up his music, Neil Young, and P.J. Harvey who I will argue is the best rock singer of all time. I also adore the songwriting of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. They’ve written the songs I’ve sung since I was a small child.
7. WHAT MUSIC ARE YOU LISTENING TO NOW?
At this moment I’m the passenger in a car driving back from an out of state family holiday and we’re listening to Pink Floyd’s Meddle. Fearless is the song playing right now.
8. THE LAST BOOK YOU READ?
The book I last finished was Chantal Ackerman’s, My Mother Laughs. It’s a stunning autobiographical work that shifts memories in time and place with a realness that was magically dizzying. I’m currently reading another book that’s similar, although fiction. It’s Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger. It not only shifts time and place, but characters experiencing the protagonists reflection from their own perspective. It’s a modernist work that’s thoroughly engrossing and romantic.
I’m terrible at keeping with things. I fall hard for learning a new thing, but get bored a bit too quickly. So I’m stuck with looms, diving gear, every type of exercise equipment created. The list goes on. What has stuck is swimming, studying Spanish, writing prose, and a continual quest for learning new things whether it’s historical, scientific, artistic,
philosophical or the absurd. Oh, and I love binge watching, from the couch, a whole season of a good show until the sun comes up.
10. VINYL, CASSETTE, CD, MP3, WEB STREAMING?
I would use whatever was available to me at that moment. I, of course, love L.P.s mostly for sentimental reasons than anything else. My husband is an audiophile and when we first started seeing each other he discovered my only way to play music at home was on an ancient mono hi-fi. He was totally confused why I would have, what he considered to be, a seriously deficient listening device. By the end of the night though he agreed Led Zeppelin’s 3rd sounded the best he’d heard it on that mono hi-fi. I have to admit that I find the ease of use and depth of catalog of streaming pretty awesome.
11. MUSIC IN THE AGE OF THE INTERNET (RELEASE, PROMOTION, GIG…) ?
There are so many ways to get your music out into the world, but getting the world’s ears to listen is another story. I basically, came up through a time when the Label did all the work besides playing the shows. It’s different now. Maybe for the better. I don’t know. I know I prefer the label doing everything, but the performance part because I find theself-promotion rather mortifying. I don’t know if I could supply a constant stream of social media promotional content.
12. WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL MOTTO?
Otium cum dignitate, meaning leisure with dignity. Years ago some friends and I created aclub called the Daughters of Dorcus because we all had ancestors named Dorcus and we found it to be an amusing first name. We met at this classic 1970s styled, what would now rightly be a politically incorrect themed chain restaurant called Trader Vics. The waiters all wore white burmuda shorts and crisp white short sleeved shirts with epaulettes. The place had, what I can only describe as, an exotic colonialist tiki bar vibe. We went for their signature cocktail they developed in 1944 called a Mai Tai. We gathered monthly at a round table in Trader Vics, raised our Mai Tai drinks, and proclaimed our motto, Otium Cum Dignitate. The club long ago ended, but I think the motto is still a good one to live by!
LLOYD / BEAN
Black Cat, Dark Horse
Since we’ve known him, Robert Lloyd has made quite clear his enormous affection for the songs and sounds of Freakwater, the duo of Janet Beveridge-Bean and Catherine Irwin who’ve been wrongly denied their place as rightful and willful progenitors of alt-country’s ‘movement’, which (frankly) is to their credit. Their genius in offering absolute authentic to the sound old-time Appalachian folk music with a modern façade that in no way negates tradition (one of their albums is titled Feels Like The Third Time) is unparalleled within the genre, and Freakwater remain under-appreciated. After the start of Covid, Robert dared approach Janet with the idea of recording together. Over the course of the long pandemic, songs were bandied about for months, and when recording was finally practical, a band was assembled with dates set up for a recording session in Valencia, Spain. Robert and Janet were joined by Robert’s long-time ally, Pete Byrchmore, the musical foil for Robert’s solo album on Virgin and a former Nightingale, Mark Bedford, the bassist for Madness and Terry Edwards’ Near Jazz Experience, and Pablo Roda, Spanish mystery drummer, couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.
Tracks were selected without regard for collective presentation, just the goal of walking out of the studio with an album of perfect gems. Forget Lee & Nancy or George & Tammy, Rob and Janet have an immediate chemistry that only sounds long-lived – and too uniquely them to merit any comparison.
The title track, Black Cat, Dark Horse is the sole Lloyd / Bean / Byrchmore composition and one of the record’s highlights. Jim Elkington, collaborator with Jeff Tweedy and Richard Thompson, contributes Heavy Reckonings and a song written with Janet, The True Lovers’ Knot And The Lie, while Robert adds reworkings from past releases – Sweet Georgia Black and Black Country (with Pete) – not to mention the unreleased Eggs And Bacon. Janet brought One Shot and the unheard Freakwater song Arc Of A Smile. Covers of tunes from Dion and The Monkees and a magnificent Jon Langford song, “Tears Like Stars” round out the album. We daresay the album is among the finest you’ll hear in 2023. That it doesn’t fit perfectly into any preconceived genre is a testament to its quality. “Songcraft” is a word used infrequently today, yet Black Cat, Dark Horse will show that good songs endure. We’re proud that Robert and Janet will find some new admirers through this album’s release. The Michael Cumming / Stewart Lee film King Rocker made a case for Robert Lloyd-as-losthero; this album furthers that idea and shows a compelling side of Janet’s talent and abilities which will be a surprise to her fans and serve as an entry point to exploring her many other compelling projects.