Saturday, September 1, 2007

Fred Eaglesmith

September ’07 – A couple of months ago, Fred Eaglesmith came at me from two directions at once. First, Roddy Cameron played me a song he’d written after a disappointing Fred Eaglesmith show (among other things, Fred had bitched all night about Scotland). The next day, my attention was arrested by a song playing on my brothers’ computer, with a chorus that went, “Time to get a gun, that’s what I been thinking. I could afford one, if I did just a little less drinking.” With lurching drums (and garbage-bin lids and beer bottles?), idiot savant banjo, and some raucous neighbours joining in for the chorus, it was a sound I couldn’t resist. The title of the song alone, ‘TIME TO GET A GUN’, would have appealed Danny and Teddy, who got their gun licences as soon as they turned 18. They played me other Fred Eaglesmith songs that they had downloaded (such as ‘I Shot Your Dog’, and ‘Lucille’, about a 19-year-old boy’s affair with a 50-year-old woman)…I liked all of them. He has a loose, conversational style of songwriting, where the melodies are simply an exaggerated version of the natural risings and fallings of speech, and the dramas are everyday and domestic. He might seem to be an unxepectedly-eloquent yobbo-redneck, writing from a sidelined, semi-rural, Canadian outpost, but I suspect that the imagery in his songs is just as exotic and marvellous to him as it is to me. He is an expert in setting up a story so that it’s believable, then nudging it to an extreme. The listener swallows it all…then, a few weeks later, thinks, “Hey! Did he really take his Cobra to the nursing home, lift her out of her wheelchair and put her in the passenger seat so that they could go for a joy ride?”