by Sheldon Birnie
Well, Dominion Day has come and gone, friends. I hope you all had a great time this Canada Day weekend. But today is the Fourth of July, and it’s time to celebrate with our neighbours to the South. So raise a can and say a toast to the good ol’ USA!
Now, I know some folks like to get all nationalistic and call down our American brothers and sisters. But that’s just being un-neighbourly. So maybe sometimes your neighbour blasts tunes that aren’t up your alley, or invites over some sketchy pals on Saturday afternoon. Big whup. We’ve all been there. Nobody’s perfect. So long as you can get over the rough patches and not burn each other’s houses down, we can all get along just fine.
One fellow who seems to understand the beauty of both America and Canada; a fellow who spends a good deal of time cruising the Highway on both sides of the border; a fellow whose music owes as much to the American tradition of country and rock and roll as to the Canadian folk tradition.
I’m talking, of course, about Mr. Fred Eaglesmith. The Eagle lands tonight at the Park Theatre. Friends, while many of you are well on your way to a good sunburn and a great evening of music at Birds Hill, I will be enjoying the shade & AC of the Park to hear Fred sing his songs and tell his stories and generally take the piss out of everyone.
I’ve been a big fan of Fred for years now, and have written about him both here and elsewhere before. But I doubt there is a more consistently strong songwriter in Canada working the Hillbilly Highway than Fred. Certainly there are few in his league who consistently pound out both the miles of blacktop and the quality tunes at consistent, regular intervals. Fred’s latest, 6 Volts, is his most stripped down and heartbreaking in years. But before that you have album after album, often difficult at first to appreciate, but after repeat listens and a couple months (or years) to get friendly with them, each one presents their own strengths and tender-moments.
Last year, he performed exactly the same time in Winnipeg, on opening night of the Folk Festival. I passed up his performance that night, opting instead to watch Blue Rodeo perform Five Days in July at the Fest. Then I missed him again when he came through later in August, as I was out performing myself at Hartney Hopper Days in southwestern Manitoba. So this time I’m taking no chances. I’ll be seeing any of you all who opt for the road less travelled tonight at the Park Theatre. Then I’ll be hightailing it to the Festival to get weird all weekend. Sometimes, you can have the best of both worlds.
Happy Fourth of July, friends!