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Left Lane: Fred Eaglesmith

Canadian singer/songwriter injects 6 Volts

March 22, 2012
By RICH GIBSON , Times Leader

In lieu of pulling into the Holiday Inn Express, a number of artists and bands are cool with the idea of catching a few overnight between-gig Z's at the spacious, well-lighted confines of a national department store chain.

Canada's Fred Eaglesmith has been there and done that during a 25-plus year career touring as one of the most underappreciated singer-songwriters in independent music.

A road warrior of the highest-acclaim, Eaglesmith and his troupe travel in a school bus and RV, converted to run on both gas and used cooking oil they've mustered from hundreds of diners and restaurants frequented along the way.

"Times are hard and things are tough for people," Eaglesmith explained. "We shouldn't be riding in busses that look like bachelor apartments."

Not that Eaglesmith is in position to enjoy the road amenities, of, say Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert or Alan Jackson. Eaglesmith, however, shares a common bond with those megastars - each have recorded one of his songs.

And Eaglesmith has penned hundreds, including all 11 for his 19th release, '6 Volts,' the title of which refers to the battery which powered the transistor radio introduced in 1954.

"My Dad had an old console radio on top of the clothes dryer, and when Johnny Cash came on, he would put one hand on each side of the radio and intently listen to that song. It really meant that much to him," Eaglesmith disclosed in a press release for the new disc.

One of nine children growing up on a farm in southern Ontario, Eaglesmith and his rambling shoes hopped a freight train at age 15, heading for western Canada. The idea? Find work to support an intense passion; writing songs and joining a band.

It wasn't easy making ends meet before Eaglesmith eventually raised enough cash to record a self-titled album in 1980. Over the next three decades, he's created a number of exceptional records, of which '6 Volts' is included.

Eaglesmith's songs often deal with life on the road. Many of his characters are lonely truckers, lonely women, jilted losers..etc.

The new disc examines a number of eccentric themes, including a relationship gone awry. When a husband discovers his wife, "Katie" involved in a sultry affair, the consequences are grim.

"Joe tried to talk, he just coughed/My heart stopped, the gun went off/Katie screamed out his name/And the gun went off again/I wrapped them in gunny sacks/I hitched a wagon, threw them in the back/I buried that Joe down by the creek/I laid my Katie neath the Hickory tree."

Eaglesmith defiantly takes a swipe at out-of-the-closet fans of the late country icon in "Johnny Cash."

"And you sure do like Johnny Cash now/Now that they've put him in the ground/Your radio station plays him all the time/Too bad you hardly played him when he was alive/But you sure do like Johnny Cash now."

"Sometimes I wake up at five in the morning and write a song," Eaglesmith declares. "I write jazz songs and big band songs...all kinds of songs. Three weeks later, I might start singing them. If they still sound good six months later, I might record them. It's all about the test of time."

Eaglesmith normally makes the club rounds on a yearly basis. He also plays an occasional country/folk festival. His extensive 2012 road schedule includes a pair of Ohio dates in June - Nelsonville's historic Opera House and Cleveland's Beachland Ballroom.

Check out numerous Eaglesmith videos and his complete tour schedule at his website:


EAGLESMITH'S backing band on the new CD include Scott Merritt (organ, tambourine, guitar); Roger Marin (pedal steel); Matty Simpson (electric guitar, banjo, organ, vocals); Kori Heppner (drums); Justine Fischer (bass, vocals)....

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and the E-Street Band are playing Cleveland's Quicken Loan's Arena next month (April 17). A Pittsburgh date is expected to be announced this spring.

It was announced earlier this week, Lady Antebellum will open for Springsteen at this summer's annual Hard Rock Calling festival in London, UK.

"It's Springsteen - there's no entertainer we look up to more than him," remarked Lady A's Charles Kelly. "I've always been like a little kid at Christmas watching his show. It's the biggest honor for us to be invited to play the London festival, especially supporting an American icon like Bruce and his band...."

PITTSBURGH'S Moondogs Club welcomes Chicago-based Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, Thursday, April 12. The band features Lil' Ed Williams, a nasty slide guitarist backed by bassist James "Pookie" Young; drummer Kelly Littleton; and guitarist Mike Garrett. Williams was recently nominated for a 2012 Blues Music Award for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year. Williams and the Imperials are expected to unleash a new studio record later this year....

The band's 8 p.m. Moondogs gig is an over-21 show. Tickets are $15. For directions, visit the venue's website:

Gibson may be reached at



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