There’ve been a lot of great concerts in Lawrencetown over the years, but nothing quite like Fred Eaglesmith.
He's called Alt Country but he could be his own genre.
His songs impart real-world and emotional truths that few artists are brave enough to put out there.
Chantelle Webb, a part owner of Lunn’s Mill Beer Company in Lawrencetown, is a big fan of the Canadian music icon and helped bring Eaglesmith to town for a Sept. 14 outdoor show at the brewery.
“Fred Eaglesmith is a touring balladeer. That’s what I’m calling him,” Webb said. “He is a mix of folk and rock and country and old-timey kind of music. I find it appeals to everybody.”
Eaglesmith lives the songs he writes and he can make you cry with a song about migrant workers, angry with a song about guns, and nostalgic with a song about a John Deere tractor. He can write about an old dog or the simplicity of a toggle switch – or a whole train load of emotional freight.
“I wasn’t a fan in the early 2000s but I went to one show and my life just turned upside down,” Webb said. “I heard ‘Freight Train’ and I was like ‘what is this?’ I pretty much went out and bought all of his albums.”
Alan Jackson covered Eaglesmith’s ‘Freight Train’ on his 2010 album of the same name, but if you want the gritty, soul-laid-bare version, it’s Eaglesmith all the way. The song’s like a runaway locomotive.
Eaglesmith performs with class act Tif Ginn, a South Texas talent who sneaks in a few of her own tunes to great audience approval.
That song about the tractor could have been written in Lawrencetown where there’s a farm museum, an exhibition, and a history of farming that defines the entire region.
“It was a John Deere that my family had, and I had it, and then things got tough and I had to sell it,” he said. “Exactly true.”
The sorrow in the song was emotion he put into words.
“It sure was,” he said.
He writes about things that are hard.
Most of what he writes is from his own experience. “And if I don’t experience it, I see it,” he said. “I write things down that I see. I might write a fiction about something I saw.”
But when he writes he’s compelled to write honest feelings. “What I feel about the song will be pretty honest,” he said. “I’m not going to duck and hide, that’s for sure.”
That might sometimes get Eaglesmith in trouble.
“It’s not a great time for truth, is it,” he said. It’s a rhetorical question. “I don’t really know what to think about it because I’m just doing what I always did. It’s not like I set out with a plan. I just sort of started doing this because that’s what I did. I just told my stories. I didn’t realize they grated on people the way they did or they were too truthful. I was just doing what I always do.”
Asked if what he’s doing now is more important than ever, given the big hit truth is taking, Eaglesmith said he doesn’t know.
“I think there’s less listening right now,” he said. “I think everybody’s too busy taking a selfie to listen. And so I don’t think it’s a great time for artists. I think it’s a great time for posers and I think it’s a great time for influencers. This has happened before. I don’t think it’s a great time for artists.”
He said the influence of artists wains.
“Look when the masters painted,” he said by way of example. “It was such a big thing in society. We haven’t had masters … it’s gone away. Lesser painters were regarded less. Photographers are really pushed aside right now. Journalists. This isn’t a great time for artists. This is a time when art isn’t celebrated, it’s invested in. People are investing in art, they’re not appreciating art. I’ve been through this before. You just do what you do and ride it out. And usually with economic times or some kind of shock in the world then art comes back around.”
He’s at home in southern Ontario, a brief break in a seemingly endless tour of North America. He’s been on the road for 42 years. He’s gone through 11 buses. He has 22 studio albums. He does the small halls and big venues. He’s been to the Valley before and it’s the kind of place he likes to be. We’re his kind of people.
“Generally, where I go, other than big cities, it’s pretty well my people,” he said. “People I meet are people who gravitate towards me, and most of them are similar. They’ve got similar sort of values and similar sort of wants, and so when I go to Kentucky and they ask me the same thing – they’re sort of the same people.”
He’s played in breweries before. It doesn’t matter to him if it’s a chicken coup, a brewery, or a big hall in a big city. “It doesn’t matter to us,” he said. “We love to play. My wife and I love to play.”
Does he have some new tunes?
“I always bring new songs,” he said. “I almost always bring new songs.”
Although he doesn’t have a set list yet, The Lunn’s Mill audience can expect a few at the show.
He does have a new album called ‘Standard’ and you just know he’s probably talking about the transmission in an old truck.
Fred Eaglesmith is Tif Ginn’s husband.
“We’re headed your way,” she said in an interview.
She’s a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter in her own right with a new album out called ‘Moving Day’ with that title song and others like ‘Getaway Car.’
She hails from Texas and there’s a jazzy feel to her songs. The good news is, she’s now a Canadian citizen as of June – and loving it.
“I’m definitely going to do a couple of my songs,” she said. “I have a little bit of pull. Sometimes I use it. I grew up doing sort of old-school country and folk music with my parents and my grandparents and my sister.”
She was really into musical theatre.
“I was into anything I could get on the radio,” she said. “We lived in a tiny, tiny town. I was just soaking up any sort of music. I was learning a million instruments, so I actually studied in school – proper. And I always really liked jazz for the experimental element of that genre a lot. And it’s so fun to sing to and there’re not too many rules. I like that.”
The Lunn’s Mill show will be on the back patio set up with tents, regular seating and some tables set up at the back. “We’ll just enjoy the concert, very intimate. One hundred people. There aren’t too many shows that are that small,” Webb said.
Tickets are available at Eventbrite.