Archive for the ‘Fred Eaglesmith’ Tag

Fred Eaglesmith- Standard review   Leave a comment


Fred Eaglesmith has been around the Americana/roots/Canadiana music world for almost 40 years. His first album was released in 1980, and since then he has unleashed more than 20 albums (including live sets) to a devoted following, but hasn’t ‘quite’ broke through to the threshold of household name; for perspective, Lucinda Williams’ folk/blues cover set Ramblin’ was released the previous year, Guitar Town was six years away, and No Depression was part of a Carter Family title.

I don’t pretend I have been listening to Fred since 1980. I believe I first heard the Ontario renegade at a mid-90s edition of the Calgary Folk Music Festival. I have no recollection who Eaglesmith was sharing Stage 4 that afternoon, but I recall my wonder at hearing his songs that weekend for the first time, “I Like Trains,” “White Trash,” “Wilder Than Her,” and “49 Tons,” I believe.

In the years since, across many albums and several live sets, my admiration has not waned despite his once cutting short an interview before I even finished my first question. His latest is called Standard, and while it doesn’t include a “White Rose” or “Spookin’ the Horses,” it does contain songs that-given a chance-may just become as fondly held.

My review of Standard is published at Country Standard Time. Best, Donald


Fred Eaglesmith 6 Volts Review- updated   Leave a comment

The (brief) version of my review of Fred Eaglesmith’s new album 6 Volts has been posted at Country Standard Time. For those of you who are not familiar with Ontarian Fred Eaglesmith, it is high time you become so; in my opinion, no one- not Buddy Miller, not Jim Lauderdale, not Alejandro Escovedo- has produced as solid a string of roots music over the past twenty years. will get you to the review.

Question? Why do American editors/writers so often refer to Canada as if it is one big ol’ mass o’ land without differentiation between our various provinces and territories? A review of any group’s latest album would never be identified as being from an “America-based” band; the descriptor would be localized as Texas-, California-, or Arkansas-based. When I’m writing for a Canadian audience, I will always refer to the outfit’s state, never simply as “an American band.” But for articles published in American publications, Canadian bands, often have their province specific description- such as Fred as an “Ontarian,” that is a person from Ontario- revised to “Canadian.”

I ask all American-based editors to consider beginning to identify Canadian acts with reference to their province or territory of origin. It isn’t really that big of a deal- I think most Americans can understand that a “Saskatchewan-based” band is indeed Canadian. We can trust that, right? It won’t horribly confuse most American readers, will it?

And heck- if it really confuses someone, they can always Google Nova Scotian.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

O, forgot- here is the ‘long’ version of my 6 Volts review:

Fred Eaglesmith 6 Volts A Major Label

From the opening notes of “Cemetery Road” it is obvious that the classic Fred Eaglesmith sound we fell for in the mid-90s is back. Absent this time out are the experimental revelations of recent albums, and as enjoyable and appreciated as those were 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.

In Ontarian 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.” Eaglesmith doesn’t attempt to provide answers; he is an observer, a writer of domestic history- through his acute writer’s eye, he captures the stories of the people we pass without notice.

Within his character studies, the details of Eaglesmith’s brilliance is revealed. Describing a multi-faceted breakdown within the title cut, Eaglesmith sings, “My clutches are slipping, the carbon gets in my throat. You get out on the passenger side, I swallow my pride. The radiators raging like a murderer, only God can bend tempered steel.” Is Eaglesmith describing the death of a relationship or a vehicle? Really, it doesn’t matter- those images work no matter the interpretation.

Eaglesmith’s characters are seldom obviously heroic; they are flawed, often lost. 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. A new classic is born, one waiting for a bluegrass interpretation from James King, James Reams, or Junior Sisk.

Elsewhere, Eaglesmith eviscerates those who ignored Johnny Cash prior to his Rick Rubin-driven comeback. Perhaps most poignant is “Stars” in which Eaglesmith reflects on his own 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 now Eaglesmith finds himself admitting, “My hands hurt from playing my guitar. Every night in all those bars, we played like we were stars.”

With a less elaborate sound than his previous Cha Cha Cha– mostly guitars and drums with pedal steel, banjo, and organ mixed in- Eaglesmith is more focused this time out but no less fierce in his determination to capture the sounds of the past within modern songs that will be as relevant in twenty years as they are today.

If Fred Eaglesmith lost you in recent years, it is time to get back on board. 6 Volts is a welcome return for Canada’s premier roots road warrior.

The Steel Wheels- Live in Red Deer February 9, 2012   Leave a comment

With the demise of Waskasoo Bluegrass, many of us in the Central Alberta region have been missing stringband music this season. We’re in for a treat February 9 as the energetic The Steel Wheels, a quartet with their roots in the fertile bluegrass and old-time music scene of Virginia, visit The Hideout February 9; despite the venue’s shaky sound, this has the potential to be the roots show of the winter. Think Mumford & Sons meets Old Crow Medicine Show, but even more appealing in my opinion.

In writing my Roots Music column this morning, I’ve been listening to Fred Eaglesmith’s new album 6 Volts as well as Sarah MacDougall’s excellent The Greatest Ones Alive (Sarah is at The Hideout February 7). While searching for the upcoming local shows, I saw mention of The Steel Wheels. Having heard the band name mentioned a few times recently on CKUA, but having not knowingly heard their music, I started listening at their website and quickly found much to appreciate. A quick visit to iTunes led me to their live album of last year Live at Goose Creek, and that is what I’m currently listening to- quite loudly with the headphones on.

Another example of ‘too much music to hear everything,’ I am so glad that I have finally found the music of The Steel Wheels. Fiddle-rich and mandolin-driven, their music includes all the elements I most appreciate in acoustiblue music- energy, strong and distinctive lead vocals that are supported and complemented by acute harmony, instrumental proficiency, originality tied to tradition, new songs that sound old and traditional songs that sound as they always have.

If we’re willing to follow them blindly, there are so many paths that can lead us to unheard music. Great stuff that we just haven’t happened to find. Yet. Eventually, the good stuff finds us- as The Steel Wheels did me this morning. Give them a listen- if you dig Chatham County Line, there is no reason you won’t enjoy The Steel Wheels.

It is rare that we get a US-based, modern stringband playing in Red Deer. Very rare. Waskasoo Bluegrass- of which I was a fair significant part- focused on traditional and contemporary bluegrass bands and rarely ventured toward more progressive and (dare we say) youthful sounds- I suppose the closest we got to ‘hip’ we got was featuring The Infamous Stringdusters several years ago. Thankfully, The Hideout latched onto The Steel Wheels who are going to be in the area for a pair of folk club shows in Calgary and Edmonton.

By the way, in a feat of booking good chance- often a rare thing in our province where left and right hands often book complementary bands on the same night in the same city- while The Steel Wheels are in Edmonton on February 10, Spring Creek, a Colorado bluegrass and acoustiblue group, are in Calgary. When The Steel Wheels arrive in Calgary the next night, Spring Creek are on stage in Edmonton for a show. So, no cross-town conflicts for a pair of bands that should attract similar audiences.

As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. I appreciate your interest and support. Donald

Roots Music Column- Kayla Luky review: Fred Eaglesmith, Mary Gauthier, Dan Bern Red Deer dates   Leave a comment

With the summer break totally messing with my normal publication schedule in the Red Deer Advocate, my Roots Music column has fallen by the wayside. Not intentially, I’m sure- just the nature of summer holidays I suppose. I’m posting this week’s (actually last week’s revised) column here in the hopes of spreading the word about some local Red Deer gigs that roots fans will want to attend this weekend and in the days following. Also, you may recall the nice things I posted about Kayla Luky’s album a couple weeks back ( the review follows below. Best, thanks for your patience, and thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee- Donald

Alberta’s finest touring roots artists continue to make their way to The Hideout.

Appearing this weekend at the Gasoline Alley tavern and eatery are Canadian and international folk and roots performers. Tonight (July 8), The Heartbroken– featuring Damhnait Doyle- has a slicker sound than some, but their music remains very agreeable to those who listen with ears attuned to rootsy sounds. Tomorrow, Vancouver’s Graham Brown Band-featuring exceptionally strong vocals- pops in for a show.

In what has to be The Hideout’s most substantial coup thus far, Mary Gauthier appears with fiery fiddler Tania Elizabeth this coming Sunday evening (July 10).

For the second summer in a row, Fred Eaglesmith is spending a great deal of time in Alberta. July 14 finds Eaglesmith at the Grandview Stage near Rocky Mountain House while the next night he takes over The Vat.

Dan Bern also appears this month at The Vat; Bern brings his impressive songbook to The Vat July 20. Bern, who last appeared in town about a decade ago, is a top-notch entertainer as well as a terrific writer and singer.

Red Deer’s Central Music Festival features blues, roots, and rock from many popular performers: David Essig, Souljah Fyah, David Vest, the Jack Semple Trio, and Jonas and the Massive Attraction alongside local performers take over a wonderful rural site north of Red Deer August 12-14. Ticket information is available at

Blues-rock legend Johnny Winter is slated for Red Deer’s Memorial Centre October 13.

This week’s disc review:

Kayla Luky The Time It Takes

Arriving unheralded this month was the third album from Grandview, Manitoba’s Kayla Luky.

A full-blown alternative country release, The Time It Takes doesn’t waste any time in establishing itself as a revitalizing shot of natural sounding, roots music. From the initial seconds of the album’s opening track “Cowboys are Coming”, one suspects that the album is going to be something special.

And it is.

Similar in sound and approach to recent and excellent recordings from Kim Beggs, Ruth Moody, and Kate Maki, The Time It Takes marks Kayla Luky as an artist for whom we should keep an ear open. Swinging into Neko Case territory on “You Won’t Find Me” and “Arizona”, Luky takes on the fair-haired child of the Americana scene and wins an uncontested victory.

Among the many things one appreciates about this recording is the quality of Luky’s annunciation. While several noted artists have in recent years started slurring their lyrics in an attempt at (one supposes) poetic mystery, Luky lays everything out clearly.

“Lonesome Ranger” wouldn’t sound out of place on an Uncle Earl disc, and closes the album with energy and attitude.

This music could have been made anywhere, I suppose. But knowing that it comes from a group of friends gathered in small town Manitoba this past winter, living on liquor and lottery tickets, makes it all the more appealing and authentic.

Kayla Luky has an ache in her heart, but through music transforms it into something joyful.

Donald Teplyske is a local freelance writer who contributes a twice-monthly column on roots music; visit for additional reviews. If you know a roots music event of which he should be aware, contact him at

Ten Roots Songs for Canada Day, 2011   Leave a comment

To quote Stompin’ Tom Connors, it’s Canada Day up Canada
way, and in honour of our great Canadian celebration- marked traditionally by hailstorms, watching the NHL Free Agent Frenzy on TSN, and mega-sleep-ins to recover from a school year (6 PM last evening until 7:45 this morning, a personal best perhaps)- I thought I would offer up 10 Roots Songs for Canada Day.

Not a list of the 10 greatest Canadian songs, or my favourites even- just 10 songs to consider pulling off the shelf or downloading (legally, dagnabit) this DFKADD (day formerly known as Dominion Day).

  1. “8:30 Newfoundland” Mike Plume Band- Okay, maybe
    this is the best roots song itemizing the charms and challenges of our fine
    country. As a proud Canadian- one who doesn’t usually agree with our governments’
    decisions- this song is 4:08 of joy. I haven’t been to all the places mentioned, but that doesn’t make it less appealing- we’re all tied together, especially those of us who watched lots of CBC in the 60s and 70s, by the fact that we know what ‘8:30 Newfoundland’ means. Originally released on 8:30 Newfoundland 2009
  2. “Acadian Driftwood” The Band- Maybe the band’s finest moments this side of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” A stylized account of the forced exodus of the Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and their eventual settlement in Louisiana. I took my Canadian history courses in university, but I never really understood the expulsion of the Acadians until I started to understand the meaning behind and context of “Acadian Driftwood.” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen until I was well out of university. A great listen:  a solid groove, a story clearly told, and wonderful vocal performances from the triad of Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel. Originally released on Northern Lights-Southern Cross 1975
  3. “O Saskatchewan” Matt Masters- As a reluctant Saskatchewanian for a few years, I came to appreciate the province in ways that others- like me, once upon a time- simply can’t because of our stereotypes and our willingness to go for the easy joke. Saskatchewan has always been viewed by Albertans as the poor cousin to the east, but it really isn’t that different from us, save the mountains. Yes, you can see your dog run away for three days out on the prairie, but the same can be said for most of Alberta. The real Saskatchewan is pretty magnificent and I got to explore a bit of it living in
    the north country for a few years: you don’t know Saskatchewan until you’ve
    walked the Methye Portage three different times and been left breathless each
    time at the view of the Clearwater River as you break through the bush at that
    final ridge. Matt Masters doesn’t get much off the Trans-Canada in his view of
    the province, but we’ll forgive that as his appreciation for Saskatchewan
    appears genuine, and the album gets its release today. Originally released on All-Western Winners TODAY, July 1, 2011!
  4. “Do You Know Slim Evans?” Maria Dunn- As we see labour and worker rights eroded weekly in our country- ask the postal workers and Air Canada workers about that- it is good to reflect on the sacrifices of those who came in previous generations and made the choices necessary to allow others- including those workers who today benefit greatly from their efforts while speaking negatively of unions- to lead more satisfying and fair lives. Maria Dunn’s We Were Good People is a wonderful collection of songs telling the stories of those who really founded our province. In short, Slim Evans was a labour organizer who was accused and convicted of misusing union money; he had diverted funds to feed the families of miners on strike during the winter of 1921-22. Every story tells a picture, and this album does more than that- it allows the seldom heard stories of Albertan pioneering labour organizers, political rabble-rousers, and ordinary people to be shared. Originally released on We Were Good People 2004
  5. “Out on the Weekend” Doug Paisley- A list of Canadian roots songs without Neil Young would be akin to an issue of enRoute without Neil Young being represented on the in-flight audio program. I chose to go with this cover by Doug Paisley rather than Neil himself because, well frankly Neil isn’t too dang Canadian these days, is he. As part of Mojo magazine’s never-ending quest to recreate every single album released between 1965 and 1975, Harvest received the honour last fall and this track is one of the standout performances. Whether we head toward L.A. or not, what Canadian hasn’t had the urge to “pack it in and buy a pickup”?  Originally released on Harvest Revisited 2010
  6. “Prairie Town” T. Buckley- From an Albertan I’m convinced will become a household name in roots circles, “Prairie Town” is songwriting perfection in under four and a half minutes. This one has the lonesome qualities of the finest songs, crafted with an eye for detailed images that resonate with anyone who was raised on or near the prairie, built upon decisions of love and home. Do you stay or do you follow? Originally released on Roll On 2010
  7. “Love Shines” Ron Sexsmith- A power pop masterpiece. Everyone knows Ron Sexsmith doesn’t have the most commercially accessible voice, but it does have its appeal. The recent documentary about Sexsmith and his journey to find himself- not to mention album sales- shares a title with this number, and much like the movie this song has a slow build that sucks you right in until you’re hanging on every phrase and sound. Beautiful. Originally released on Long Player, Late Bloomer 2011.
  8. “I Like Trains” Fred Eaglesmith- As a farm kid, I can still remember the thrill of waiting at the crossing at Duffield as the train passed through town. Sitting in the red Ford pickup, counting the cars, waving at the engineer and the crew in the caboose…those are memories as fresh today as they were when they happened forty years ago. All kids like trains. Only folks like Fred get to write about them. I love the phrase “shake the gravel loose”- it captures the trembling that you felt as a kid as the train
    roared by. Originally released on Drive-In Movie 1995.
  9. “Sometimes I Think I Can Fly” Suzie Vinnick- Sparse blues. If I could play music, it wouldn’t sound anything like this. But I wish it would. Originally released on Me
    ‘N’ Mabel
  10. “Pier 21” John Wort Hannam- This is where the journey started for many Canadians of previous generations. Like Maria Dunn and I suppose Robbie Robertson, John Wort Hannam gives life to Canadian history, and any one of a dozen of his songs could have had a place on this list. With the exception of its Native people, Canada is a country of immigrant stock and JWH captured that experience in this song from his debut:

“He said Go Laddie Go, Go Laddie Go, Find your dreams over on Pier 21, He said Go Laddie Go, Go Laddie Go, But don’t you ever forget where you’re from.” Originally released on Pocket Full of Holes 2003

And that sums up Canada Day for me- “Don’t forget where you’re from!” We or our ancestors might have come from Scotland, Germany, Ukraine, India, and anyone of twenty-four dozen other countries, but we’re Canadian. And let’s not forget it.

Now, go play some Trooper.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

BTW- I posted a similarly-themed but different posting of 10 Canadian Bluegrass songs over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass:

Walkin’ Talkin’ Dancin’ Singin’- June 21, 2010   2 comments

Fred Eaglesmith- Cha Cha Cha Reviewed here: With every listen, this album reveals a bit more. And what it reveals, is good.

The album I most enjoyed listening to this week.

Fred Eaglesmith- Milly’s Café, 50 Odd Dollars, Dusty I listened to these the other night while prepping my Cha Cha Cha piece. Dusty shocked me. I thought I disliked the album, and because of that I haven’t listened to it since it was released. Surprise. It’s pretty good. I know what I didn’t like- the organ- but my ears have grown into it. Really glad I pulled it off the shelf.

The Sadies- Darker Circles Working on a review. Well, listening a lot in preparation of writing a review.

Bryan Sutton and Friends- Almost Live One of those albums I feel quite inadequate reviewing.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band- Preservation Treme wrapped up Season 1 last night; I thought it had finished up before Memorial Day, but it only took a week off. Great show. I hadn’t listened to this one in a couple weeks, but put it on after the show was finished. The last four cuts really appealed to me last night.

Ian Dury- New Boots and Panties!! Just had to listen to it again. Rhymes, rhymes, rhymes. Rhythms. Rhythms. Rhythms. Good.

Kimberley Rew- Great Central Revisited One of my favourite albums. He is a master.

Highwaymen- The Road Goes On Forever: 10th Anniversary Edition Pulled off the shelf while writing a review for the new Mark Chesnutt album. Enjoyable, and even more so now than when first released.

Kathy Kallick Band- Between the Hollow and the High-Rise Great title! One of my favourite bluegrass people, Kathy Kallick is. I’ll be listening to this one all summer.

Oliver Schroer & The Stewed Tomatoes- Freedom Row Even better the second week. Reviewed in the paper last Friday; link below…somewhere.

Dierks Bentley- Up On The Ridge The last time a major country artist- at the top of his game, while not exactly setting the world on fire with his previous release- was this brave, putting everything on the line to make music he loves was, well…never? Marty Stuart, who Bentley does remind me of at times on this pretty spectacular acoustic roots album, did something similarly risky in 1999 with The Pilgrim. While an artistic success, The Pilgrim died at retail. So far, Up On The Ridge is a chart success. It is a terrific album and the contributions of The Punch Brothers and Del McCoury push it over the edge.

Doc Watson- Songs for Little Pickers Any Doc is good Doc.

Mumford & Sons- Sigh No More Modern music for a non-modern guy.

The Wooden Sky- If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone The only release from my Polaris Music Prize ballot to make it through to the ‘long list’ stage; how can I be so consistently out-of-touch with the Canadian pressie masses? Pretty easily- only a very small sampling of music I would identify as roots made it through- see the long list here: Lots of good music, no doubt, but it is criminal that John Wort Hannam was overlooked- Juno nominated, Queen’s Hotel is wonderful folk album, one for the ages. The Wooden Sky is battling it out with Lee Harvey Osmond for top place on my ‘short list’ ballot. Had LHO had a W in it, it may have made my Long List ballot.

The Fabulous Ginn Sisters- You Can’t Take A Bad Girl Home I’m reserving judgment until I listen again. Some nice songs with lyrics clever enough for me to suspect Fred Eaglesmith had a hand in them- the writing credits prove me wrong.

Fred Eaglesmith on Letterman   Leave a comment

While it didn’t change the course of network television, it may well change the course of Fred’s career. Looking like a secondary character from Carnivàle, Fred’s highly publicized appearance on Letterman Friday night, June 18 (recorded the previous Monday) went off without an apparent hitch. Performing “Careless” from Cha Cha Cha with the full assemblage of The Fred Eaglesmith Road Show, Fred was all Fred- calm, cool, and calculated. I’ve been listening to Cha Cha Cha for a couple weeks now and had identified “Careless” as among the most accessible tracks within a dense collection of odd (to be clear, that is not a negative) songs and performances. Within the ‘live’ context, the song worked very well and Fred was beaming by the time Dave ambled over. It was a strange but restrained performance on a huge stage, and I do hope it causes the sales of Fred’s new album to go through the roof; I enjoy mid-90s Fred much more, but I’m not going to knock anyone for changing their style over time. Count me among those who never thought they would see Fred on Letterman, but it is a logical placement- Dave has always taken chances with his musical guests, featuring many one would not anticipate.

Eaglesmith will be spending most of July in Alberta this year, beginning at Pembina River Nights July 9 (  and wrapping up at the nearby Grandview Stage at Cow Lake August 5 ( I can’t wait to see how Fred goes over at Blueberry Bluegrass! (

From New York’s Ed Sullivan Theatre to the Grandview Stage in less than six weeks- the life of a road musician!

Letterman clip here:

Posted 2010 June 19 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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