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Fred Eaglesmith & the Flying Squirrels

Ralph's Last Show (Live In Santa Cruz) – 2001 (Signature Sounds)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Fred Eaglesmith & the Flying Squirrels

Sort of a Canadian Woody Guthrie with the sense of humor of a John Prine or Todd Snider, Fred Eaglesmith writes songs that speak to themes of social injusticein a sympathetic way that's neither condescending or preachy. The set list for this double live disc is drawn from a wide cross-section of his albums dating back to 1980.

Of his classic songs, "Time To Get A Gun," with its message of frustration in the face of societal changes, resonates more now than it did on the "Lipstick, Lies, And Gasoline" album in 1998. Anyone not familiar with Eaglesmith's early releases (recently reissued on CD by Eaglesmith himself) will surely have their curiosity piqued after hearing chestnuts like, "Flowers In The Dell," or "Carmelita." Of the newer tunes, "A Pretty Good Guy," is a co-write with like-minded American country artist Chris Knight, and "Benchseat Baby," is a leering come-on of a rocker.

Stripped of the kitchen-sink, rattletrap production of recent studio efforts, Eaglesmith and his band still pump out some mighty effective, and affecting, music.