|Fred J. Eaglesmith|
1. Yellow Barley Straw (1:37) -
A Different Kind of Blues...
Southern Ontario... Farms, trees, animals, cold winters, good people, trucks and cars and plenty of land stretching forever. There's also ghosts here, whispering on the wind and hanging around the kitchen wondering where it all went wrong. Fred J. Eaglesmith tracks it all down in his quest for the song: the one that tells all stories simultaneously without leaving out individuals.
What Fred does so well, is let you know how close to your story his characters are, no matter what walk of life you come from. In Fred's tunes, we can hear just how much North America there is: the restlessness, the heartbreak, the guilt, and savage independence that won't allow a man to give up even though he's lost everything that matters to him... the very fact that he continues to be a man tells him that life is worth living.
There's plenty of darkness in Fred's songs, it's a darkness that wakes you up at 3 a.m. With the night terrors. It's stones in the passway, sure, but it's also the wolves at the door, waiting for you to come out.
Fred's voice charts the depth of sadness and resignation in the same way that Woodie Guthrie, Jimmie Rogers, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Hank Williams, and the Louvin Brothers did before him. In the hybrid of pain, and struggle, there is always the fire of hope that at any moment a miracle could occur. The crazy thing is, it's Fred's voice that tells you the miracle is already in the song, because he knows, he's there with you going down the road and into town to see the banker for another reprieve.
Fred also reminds me of Stan Rogers in his empathy for the people of his region. He's heard the arguments in the kitchen and in the barroom; he's heard the prayers of farmers on tractors that this year will be better amid the desperation of hard living and pointless dying. But Fred hasn't only heard these voices, he's been them, he's written and sung them, in order that they never be forgotten. One listen to Rodeo Rose, Jericho or the Mindless Side of Town bears witness to the courage and determination of the people who are proud to be just what they are.
Dave Brogren captured Fred and his band at his fine La Casa Music Series on a particularly good night, when they came to play for the folks down in Michigan. And play they did --- like a dust storm in August. Fred and his band wove the stories and the people went for them, and wanted more. There was a feeling in the air so thick with electricity and admiration, you could have cut it with a Randall Knife.
What's here on the disc is a record of that evening, but it's more than that, it's a page in a history book that needs to be memorized as a way of preserving a way of life that is so hard and precious that it holds all of us up in one way or another.
That said, it's no exaggeration to say that Fred J. Eaglesmith's songs come from the soil itself, there can be no higher or more basic truth. Listen and learn.
(2008 update: these are the original liner notes. Still true and applicable 15 years later)
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 03 January 2009 23:30 )|