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Fred Eaglesmith

6 Volts – 2012 (A Major Label)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Fred Eaglesmith

From the opening notes of Cemetery Road it is apparent that the classic Fred Eaglesmith sound is back; it seems high time that the Fred of lonely gravel roads, lonelier women, frustrated Saturday evenings, roadside artistry and junkyard Americana paid a return visit.

Within character studies, Eaglesmith's brilliance is revealed. Seldom heroic, Eaglesmith's protagonists are flawed, often lost. Eaglesmith doesn't attempt to provide answers; he is an observer, a writer of domestic history - through his acute eye, he captures the stories of the people we pass without notice.

One example can be found within the wrong-eyed, farmer justice of Katie, in which a landowner holds out under pressure of residential expansion because he buried his unfaithful wife under the hickory tree...and there's another grave down by the creek. In Canadian Eaglesmith's dark world, the Dangerous man, living on the corner of Stupidity and Recklessness has as much appeal as the broken hearted, drugged-out long hauler of Trucker Speed.

Perhaps most poignant is Stars in which Eaglesmith reflects on his road warrior legacy, the one in which "Willie played the mandolin, he jumped around the stage; we thought that it would never end." Of course, everything fades and Eaglesmith finds himself admitting, "My hands hurt from playing my guitar."

With a less extravagant sound than his previous "Cha Cha Cha"- mostly guitars and drums with pedal steel, banjo, and organ mixed in - Eaglesmith is no less fierce in his determination to capture the sounds of the past within songs that will be as relevant in 20 years as they are today.