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Fred Eaglesmith stays true to his roots

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Fred Eaglesmith is a road warrior as well as a gentleman. As rushed as he sounds over the phone from the road en route to a gig in Chicago, he still takes the time to sincerely thank the interviewer for taking the time to talk to him.
 Fred Eaglesmith playing the 2011 South Country Fair. Photo by Richard AmeryThe long standing Canadian folk/ roots/ country musician, who released his first album in 1980, remains stubbornly independent and is gaining increased popularity all over the world.  While he is best known for writing grass roots anthems about trains, truckers, jilted lovers and pretty much anybody living on the fringes, he isn’t afraid to experiment. He was exploring bluegrass a few years ago, then moved in a more gospel direction, then went Caribbean. He appeared on the David Letterman show dressed like a circus ringmaster, but on his latest CD “6 Volts” goes back to his country roots.

“Yes, a lot of people are saying that. It’s definitely something I wanted to do,” Eaglesmith said adding he just writes the way he writes and does what he feels.

“I can’t out-finesse anybody anyhow,” he chuckled adding he considers himself pretty good at gauging his market and figured the time was right to go back to his roots.
While setting out to record this album, he was also tossing around the idea of recording a traditional country album.
“That’s still in the back of my head,” he said.
In the past few years, he got a number one hit on the bluegrass charts after James King recorded a version of “30-Years of Farming.”
Meanwhile mainstream country musicians like Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert and Allan Jackson have started recording his songs. non-mainstream artists like Todd Snider, Mary Gauthier,  The Cowboy Junkies and Chris Knight and countless others have recorded his songs as well.

 But he is enjoying revisiting his roots on this CD.
 Case in point, the harrowing murder ballad “Katie,” about a farmer who catches his wife in bed with his best friend, kills them and buries them on his property and refuse to sell even as the town grows around him.

“Yes, that’s become the big favourite. I used to write whole albums of songs like that, ” he said, joking he stopped writing them to avoid raising the ire of feminists.
“But I think I can get away with a song like that again,” he chuckled.

The irascible Eaglesmith wasn’t afraid to take a shot at, wait for it,  “Johnny-come -lately” Johnny Cash fans in his song “Johnny Cash.”
“It was one of the songs I didn’t finish until the album, but an idea I had for a while,” he said,” adding the genesis of the song was sparked by an encounter with a fan from the Netherlands who came up to him wearing a Johnny Cash shirt.


“He thought he was so hip, because he liked Johnny Cash, so I asked him to name five Johnny Cash songs and he couldn’t.  And how could you not? Johnny Cash has so many songs,” he said.
“And a lot of my friends started as punk rockers and now they’re playing the same music I’m playing,” he said.
He is also takes a step back to look back on his career on “Stars,” which sounds like a history of the Fred Eaglesmith band as he mentions  Willie (P Bennett) playing mandolin.
“I actually got to talking with Kori (Hepner, the band’s long time drummer) about the band,” he said adding what started out as a song about touring bands in generally turned into an autobiographical song about his band and career.

“It turned out really nice,” he said.
 He recorded the entire CD  in one room around one microphone and therefore one track, which was a challenge.
“There were a lot of tears. We were there from like 11 a.m. to one in the morning. And we were never sure if we got it right. We were always worried about getting it right, because with only one track, you can’t fix anything in the mix,” he said.
“ It sounds very real,” he said.

The Cd has technically been out since last year. He was selling handcrafted copies of the CD with liner notes and jackets being created out of  scrap-booking  materials.  A more formal  version has since been released, though Eaglesmith noted he likes adding the personal touch.
“I always put out a high quality product. I couldn’t believe it when Universal reduced the price of Cds to $10, and didn’t improve the quality,” he said.
“And I always like to thumb my nose at those type of guys.”
He will be bringing a similar show to the Slice compared to his last visit.
“I’m still doing the circus show, but it’s a little bit different now,” Eaglesmith said on the road to Chicago, Illinois, beginning a tour that will keep him on the road right through to the end of the year.
“I’ve got a new CD out and so does Tif (Ginn, one half of the fabulous Ginn Sisters). ”

He will  head up to the Yukon after  finishing the Alberta leg of the tour, dip into  Alaska and continue touring straight across Canada. He noted he’d like to try to get to Australia this year as well.
“ We have two trucks which run on gas and vegetable oil,” he said.

 The show begins at 8 p.m., April 21 at the Slice. Tickets are $20. Tif Ginn and Bill Passalacqua will also be performing.

— By Richard Amery, L.A.Beat Editor
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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 17 April 2012 09:44 )  
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