The music on Fred Eaglesmith’s new album “Six
Volts” is an acquired taste.
If you prefer music full of pop hooks and catchy lyrics – and
there’s no reason why you shouldn’t – move along. Fred Eaglesmith isn’t your
kind of music man.
We always hear about musicians that mix and match influences
to create their own sounds. Eaglesmith does that, too. Not to stretch a point
too far, but comparing his sound with those of what some say are similar
artists is akin to comparing a wine from the extraordinary Opus One with, well,
not Two-Buck Chuck but you get the idea.
Eaglesmith’s music is a true sensory experience because of
his life experience, and that doesn’t mean age. It means a Baby Boomer that was
on such a quest to understand life that he spent part of his teenage years
hopping freight trains through his native Canada. Although Eaglesmith
presumably doesn’t hop trains anymore, his lyrics clearly show he’s a true
student of life. The result is a catalog that speaks to listeners’ hearts as it
melds the sonic flavors of bluegrass, folk and rock.
While many music journalists compare him to Neil Young, I
think John Mellencamp (post his “Jack and Diane” period) and John
Hiatt are his musical soul mates.
But that’s not important.
What is important is that you realize that Six Volts is yet another in a long line
of musical triumphs for Eaglesmith and those about whom he writes.
Of the 11 songs on this album, “Johnny Cash” is
truly a stand out track. That’s the one where Eaglesmith calls out all the (get
ready for it) Johnnies Come Lately to
Cash’s music in lyrics that include:
“Where were you were in 1989/when it looked like Johnny
was on the decline/
His career was fading, His shows weren’t selling/You were
listening to heavy metal/but you sure do like Johnny Cash now
You sure do like Johnny Cash now/ Now that they’ve put him
in the ground/The radio station plays him all the time/too bad they never
played him when he was alive/but you sure do like Johnny Cash now.”
Another don’t miss song is the title track that has a simple
elegance in its guitar and simple percussion, much like the done-me-wrong
Eaglesmith recorded the album with a live band and one
(seriously) microphone. Can’t get much more down home than that. But as
Eaglesmith’s music proves, sometimes the back-to-basics approach is truly the
DOWNLOAD: “Johnny Cash,” “Katie” – NANCY DUNHAM