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He's a Rockin' Contradiction - Fred Eaglesmith at Petit Campus, June 17/07

Posted by Cat / June 19, 2007

20070618_Fred-at-Campus.jpgWhat can be said about Fred Eaglesmith that hasn't already been said? Well, plenty. Go to a Fred show again and again and you'll never see the same show twice. In part because he puts out so many darn albums. Also in part because he has truckloads of stories, opinions, and observations, plus, he doesn't mind pulling your leg on occasion. There is a different sermon to be heard at every show, and high-calibre roots-rock and country music in between recitations from the Gospel According to Fred.

So in addition to singer/songwriter/comedian/painter, one really oughta add preacher to Fred's roster of talents. And let's not forget poet, as well. In pulling from that proud tradition of haiku penned south of the Mason-Dixon line, Fred treated the audience to the following gem:

Dang! In that tube top it sure is hard to remember you're my cousin.

With a voice that could sand your hardwood floors whilst making doves cry, Fred and his band, The Flying Squirrels, delivered a powerful, heartful performance (that feels like a bit of a throwaway line, as "powerful" and "heartfelt" describe every Fred performance. Indeed, they aptly describe Fred himself.)

The show was a good mix of old material and new. I like the feel of hit latest release, Milly's Cafe. It's a really beautiful album, measured out in reflective lyrics and more languid tunes. Not as rollicking as some of Fred's past recordings, the songs won't keep pace with those fans who demand a more grinding honky-tonk set. But I find it refreshing to take a break from all that toe tappin' and knee slappin' on occasion.

After all, cowboys and truckers have their gentle moments, too. Most of the songs (both on the album and at the show) are content to just revel in a quiet, ordinary sort of happiness. The title track on Milly's Cafe has a lovely, lulling boss nova lilt to it - more sway than swagger. And "18 Wheels", with which Fred opened the show, is a soft yet strong love song. Moments like that help to sustain the more raucous side of a Fred show. The proof is in 16 albums and a non-stop touring schedule.

20070618_Fred-&-FlyingSquir.jpgBut rest assured, there were plenty of raucous moments. Half the fun of a Fred show is his funny, opinionated, loud, and always unpredictable stage banter. From wry observations to comedic rants, Fred shared his contempt for Celtic Music, overly-chatty Maritimers, hippies, rednecks, liberals, right-wingers, apathy, folk musicians, developers, environmentalists, and hummus. Especially hummus.

I have to say my favourite non-musical moment was a heated - and I do mean heated - debate between Fred and a female member of the audience. Fred was taking CBC radio to task for not addressing a younger audience. "The baby boomers have ruined our culture!" The woman told Fred that he had been in the United States for too long. "No!" barked Fred. "I've been HERE too long!".

I am proud to say that my Canada includes a country singer who will pull out all the stops (and plenty of expletives) to debate the Ceeb. If Fred is indeed as much minister as he is musician, consider me converted.

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