Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Eagle(smith) has landed

OK, so only a few short months since the last blog: we're in danger of making this a regular thing. In fact, think I might do so as I'm finding our web service lacking in so many ways (want to post/embed videos, songs etc) and generally hook up with the at large. It's a bugger to do in HTML, and anyway who has the time...

... not me, not when there's legends like Fred Eaglesmith to prepare a welcome for.

Thursday 22nd October, 8:00pm
Prince Albert, Trafalgar St, Brighton

Tickets £8 advance (£10 on door) available from Rounder, Resident, Punker Bunker and online at

Fred Eaglesmith makes people do funny things. I’ve met (apparently sane) people who’ve spent a whole week travelling on a specially-chartered train with him, attending Fred shows every night wherever the train happened to stop. Tiring of riding the rails. he’s about to take 100 or so “Fred-heads” (yes, they’re really called Fred-heads!) on an ice-breaker cruise ship on The Fred Eaglesmith Atlantic Adventure. It’ll sell out of course: the man inspires devotion amongst his fans.

Fred grew up in a farming family, and still runs his own farm. He runs his own record label too. After a brush with major labels, he decided to go it alone, but cheekily named his A Major Label. He’s pretty much a household name in his native Canada: when Oxfam launched their Make Trade Fair campaign a few years back you could see Fred’s face alongside the more internationally-recognised Bonos, Michael Stipes and Thom Yorkes (maybe Fred gave Thom some tips on releasing your own records!).

Songs? Fred’s got ‘em in spades – as well as 17 albums of his own, he’s had tunes covered by (deep breath) MARY GAUTHIER. TOBY KEITH, COWBOY JUNKIES, KASEY CHAMBERS, RALPH STANLEY II, TODD SNIDER and DAR WILLIAMS. Songs about the real important things in life – that and trucks, trains, cars and motorbikes. And now religion: for with most recent album, Tinderbox, Fred’s turning his attention to questions of faith. And what an album: it sounds like a meeting of TOM WAITS and WOODY GUTHRIE (imagine DUST BOWL BALLADS meets MULE VARIATIONS) and it is utterly fantastic. With songs titled You Can’t Trust Em (‘They keep taking Jesus down off the cross”) and Fancy God, as well as numerous characters having their faith tested to (and beyond) the limits, you can imagine he’s not writing eulogies – it’s more ‘opiate of the masses’ in theme and is tremendously compelling stuff. Can’t wait to see it rendered ‘live’ with a full band – Fred’s first such show for us, incidentally.

Stories? To be honest, Fred could hold a crowd rapt if he’d left his guitar back in the dressing room. He’s a genuinely unique presence on stage with a hatful of - by turns - hilarious and insightful stories and a brilliantly witty, skewed take on the world (as well as the room he finds himself in – at our last show, one memorable monologue resulted from his frustrated attempts to take the top off a bottle of water left for him onstage. Yes, I and many other people would pay money to watch Fred open a bottle of water. Now that’s devotion. (Don't believe me? Watch the Texas Towel clip below: funny as f***!).

The Texas Towel intro to 18 Wheels:

Don’t just take my word for it… here’s some press for Tinderbox:

“a magnificent opus… a superb blend of organic gospel, blues and country with maverick-spirited experimentation and reinvention” - Rave
“Eaglesmith at his gritty, straightforward best. As an exploration of why people often turn to religion during difficult times and how that religion often fails in those circumstances, Tinderbox is an album of nearly limitless depth”- Slant
“Tinderbox is very much a document of this moment in time, a journal of spiritual crisis yet renewed humanity… [It’s] Eaglesmith at his most down-to-earth magical” - Houston Press
“Ever heard an album where your jaw drops on first listen, then keeps sounding even better with every spin? Tinderbox is one such record. It’s his most adventurous and accomplished work yet, and how many artists now on their 17th record can you say that about? It’s hard to imagine a better roots-based record coming out this year” - Exclaim!
“One of his most important CDs to date. Tinderbox, from start to finish, from the lyrical quality to the production, is just plain ingenious” - Lone Star Music

Support for the evening comes from KERRI POWERS, who’s just released Faith In The Shadows, which puts me in mind of nothing less than JESSE SYKES breaking into LUCINDA WILLIAMS’ studio and stealing away with her band. Smoky vocals, big tremulous guitar sweeps: very good indeed. Kerri will be performing solo this evening – and on stage around 8.30pm. As ever, don’t be late.

Couple of links for those of you craving more...

Site dedicated to Fred's performances in Holland (lots of great live stuff here!):
Fred Eaglesmith Forum:
Kerri Powers: