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Fred Eaglesmith

Lipstick, Lies and Gasoline – 1997 (Razor & Tie)

Reviewed by Roy Kasten

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CDs by Fred Eaglesmith

Fred Eaglesmith may not be Ontario's answer to Steve Earle, but his last effort "Drive-in Movie" suggested he was shooting from the same swaggering hip, a concept album taking trains and cars as the objective correlative for life on emotional and economic edges.

These 13 songs also form a concept album - only it's the same concept, and therein lies the rub. As finely detailed, occasionally evocative his images of guns and Pontiac grills, one gets the feeling he could crank out tunes like "105," "Time to Get a Gun," and "Water in the Fuel" on demand. Eaglesmith has seemingly given up the farmland populism of "Harold Wilson" and "Sharecroppin" for alcohol and STP, and that narrows his art.

Sonically, however, "Lipstick" is wider, a startling leap forward - Pete Van Alten's percussion is jagged, the rhythms are avant-bluesy, the guitars and banjos sound mean, and Eaglesmith's nasal, hillbilly moan is assured. Not the revelation hoped for from this prolific and intense songwriter, but close and getting closer with every listen.