Monday, March 30, 2009

Fred Eaglesmith - Highlight of the Weekend

I had heard one Fred Eaglesmith song, "He's a Good Dog", when I discovered he was performing in London, Ontario last weekend, where I had planned for other very good reasons to be! I love the dog song, so I thought it worth a shot.
So Silly Wife and I headed down to the London Music Club (she has lived in London nearly twenty years and neither of us knew this venue existed! - more fool we - it has a lovely intimate main hall) Saturday evening to see him live, in a show starting nominally at 7pm, which is a starting time I approve of mightily. I had a vague idea what was coming, SillyWife none at all. One great thing - the show started around 7:20, finished so we were home by a little after 9:30. That I love.
I got far more than I had hoped, and would go again, and will watch his touring schedule.
Part of the delight is that he comes from rural Southwestern Ontario, and writes songs about those experiences; I come from rural Eastern Ontario, not from a farm background myself, though we lived in the midst of a largely farming community, and shared recreation with that community, so a lot of what he writes makes a lot of sense, and I also know and enjoy rural Southwestern Ontario.
The songs lean to trucks, cars, tractors, rural life disintegrating, but they are populated by wonderfully smart and witty lyrics, and music I cannot really categorize, some of it basic country, some of it gospel, some of it bluegrass.
The musicality of the group (The Flying Squirrels) was wonderful, with really tight arrangements (great versatility on bass, some very interesting banjo work, and the drummer Kori, who is just a lot of fun for an old guy to watch), and Eaglesmith's own wonderful guitar work.
He did not sing the only song I originally knew, though he did sing "Wilder than Her", which I had learned from YouTube. For me the most moving song was "30 years of farming", as it sure sounded as if he has experienced something like it, and yet the contrast between the music and the lyrics was one of those things I really love in art - more or less happy music with terribly heartbreaking lyrics. But I enjoyed the show - and he did have a good dog song, though its theme was "I Shot Your Dog". (Understandable from a kid who grew up on a chicken firm and must love making his urban audience cringe at times).
I also recommend his patter highly - he is a delightfully funny ball of contradictions, and can go off in directions that caught me off guard - who knew there was a genre of 'snail jokes' (and pretty funny)? Moreover he has a great hunter/deer joke. He says they all relate to Zen.
But he would.
Go hear him. Silly Wife liked the show, and also his guitar playing. She did comment that the audience was a cross-section of London she had not really seen, though she did have a (retired) colleague in the audience.
You can find his performance schedule here. If I still have any Texan readers - he will be done there in April for the BlueBonnets, which this year I will sadly miss.
Go see him. He is one of many Canadian treasures. Wonder how much arts funding he has got?
For a treat here is Eaglesmith's 30 Years of Farming.

(Kori features nicely in that video.)
And a great cover that seems more Google-famous than Eaglesmith's by James King.

One measure of how great a songwriter is how nicely some other group can mold the original song in to something new. (As with Dar Williams' "Wilder than Her".)


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