A Review of the CD
"50-Odd Dollars"
by Fred Eaglesmith

"50-Odd Dollars"
by Fred Eaglesmith

Copyright 1999
Razor & Tie Records
214 Sullivan Street - Suite 4A
New York, New York 10012

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 6/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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According to Thoreau, the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Fred Eaglesmith sings about them.

Eaglesmith can sing pain, sorrow, danger and despair as good or better than anyone else out there right now. His territory is one of gut level and primal life where the smell of sweat, pain, fear and desperation are omnipresent. His characters don't ask for much but their desires remain unrequited, the proverbial pot of gold always at arm's length.

Although some will argue Eaglesmith keeps retracing the same subject matter, he does so here in an even more spare lyrical style than before and with some unusually inventive arrangements. When's the last time (the first time?) your favorite performer utilized a theremin in the instrumentation mix? Check out "Steel Guitar." "Gettin' To Me" offers guitar play reminiscient of some of the old surfer songs. "Alternator" has a swing feel and sound to it.

"Rodeo Boy" is about a forlorn country soul who ignored his head, followed his heart, and now meanders around town wondering what happened. Eaglesmith sings:

"Ten Ton Chain," "Gettin' To Me" and "Crazier" continue the vein of tossed and twisted love.

Adding to his garage full of automobile compositions, "Mighty Big Car" goes to the fore as one of Eaglesmith's best car songs. He sings:

Eaglesmith uses a momentary falsetto on the word 'mighty' in the chorus, "That's a mighty big car...," that elevates the effect of the tune. The next verse goes: "Steel Guitar," driven by rhythmic percussion and guitar backing (and the touch of theremin), contains some of Eaglesmith's quirkiest writing while also finally revealing the reason behind Mona Lisa's smile: The reverential "Carter" is a tribute to the late bluegrass legend Carter Stanley. Backed by fiddle, mandolin and pedal steel, it is similar in style and poignancy to the mournful "Drive-In Movie." It goes: Eaglesmith also has a bit of fun on "Alternator," due to his pickup truck experiencing a myriad of mechanical problems that affect his racing and social lives. Even his mother, whom he drives to church every Sunday, calls him up and says she's going to walk instead. "You got troubles of your own," she states.

This may not be a release for the acoustic set but it contains plenty to keep those interested in other genres more than satisfied. There's some early Springsteen here, when he was still more New Jersey than anything else. Cars, lovers, exes, despair--you'll find it all but at a definitely more rootsy level. This is a release whose appeal grows with each listening.

Track List:

All songs by Fred Eaglesmith.

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