Fred EaglesmithFor a guy who says he's not influenced by other artists, singer-songwriter Fred Eaglesmith sure gets his share of comparisons. Often described along the lines of Bruce Springsteen, Joe Ely, Steve Earle, John Prine, Robert Earl Keen, and even Bob Dylan, Eaglesmith was one of nine children born to a farming family in southern Ontario. Eaglesmith claims he gets more out of getting in his car and driving across Ontario than he ever could hanging out with other artists. Sounds like the attitude Springsteen had, until he got too popular and had to quit stopping in at those all-night diners in New Jersey for coffee, cheesecake, and song ideas. Eaglesmith isn't that recognizable, even in Canada, where he has had a strong following in the underground since the '80s. But his reputation is growing. His 1997 album Lipstick, Lies & Gasoline
landed on several critics' year-end lists, and his last, 1999's 50-Odd Dollars
, is a dark, eclectic classic.
Eaglesmith's tunes include tales of fast trains, big trucks, semi-reliable cars, menial jobs, and a you-can't-win-and-you're-a-fool-for-trying ethos. He writes about Americana in its most bare-metal simplicity, although he might not even agree with the description. He'll say he never liked being part of any scene, because it leads to mundane art. Anyone who has heard his prickly songs couldn't rightly call Eaglesmith a bore.