Fred Eaglesmith - Tinderbox (Music CD)

Release Date: 25 July 2011
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Fred Eaglesmith doesn't release very many albums, but when he does, they're always stunners. He's won a Canadian Grammy for Best Roots & Traditional Album for Drive-in Movie in 1997 and has had tunes covered by Toby Keith, the Cowboy Junkies, Kasey Chambers, Mary Gauthier, Ralph Stanley II, Dar Williams, and Todd Snider, but his hard luck tales sound best delivered in his own dark, rumbling voice. Tinderbox is being touted as Eaglesmith's gospel album, but like everything he creates, it's gospel on his own terms. The tracks are sparse -- Eaglesmith and his band play a dark, subdued kind of music, mixed to keep Eaglesmith's minimal vocals in the center of the sonic field. The album's murky, homemade feel is perfectly suited to the material, songs that veer between light and dark, love and hate, salvation and damnation. "Get on Your Knees" is the album's centerpiece, a swampy rocker that dances with preachers, devils, and sinners to a disjointed drum beat and an eerie organ. The backing chorus sounds half mad, or drunk, or possessed as the tune moves to a climax of scratchy processed vocals, ululating organ, and a lamenting choir. It contrasts neatly with the almost a cappella (there is a bit of ragged harmonica as well) "Fancy God." The massed voices eschew harmony to deliver a message that's hopeful and superior as they sing "That god you got is a fancy god, he's not the one I know, he don't live in parking lots outside of monster homes..." On "Sweet Corn," "Chain Gang," and "Shoulder to the Wheel" Eaglesmith looks at the work-a-day world with a combination of anger and resignation, painting grim portraits of people working without any hope of reasonable recompense. Eaglesmith takes us to the church of futility on "Tinderbox," "Killing Me," and "Worked Up Field," players to a God who seems to be deaf, blind, and indifferent. As he sings "Worked Up Field" a woman's voice speaks in the background about the passions that are consuming everyone she knows. As Eaglesmith sings "I pray, pray, pray all day and it don't rain at all..." a guitar chimes in the background like a distant church bell announcing another futile Sunday morning service. "I Pray Now," a pounding gospel tune, and "Stand," a moaning, droning hymn, seem to offer some hope, but the set closes with "Shoeshine," a look at lost soul who totes a .44 and a quart of whisky and hatred for his wife, and "When," a despondent plea for immediate salvation. Most albums with this kind of an unremittingly dark vision wear out their welcome long before they reach the last song, but Eaglesmith's powerful spell is oddly uplifting and has you pushing the replay button every time.
~ j. poet
Release Date: 25 July 2011

1. Sweet Corn
2. Chain Gang
3. Shoulder to the Plow
4. Quietly
5. Tinderbox
6. Killing Me
7. Worked Up Field
8. I Pray Now
9. You Can't Trust Them
10. Get on Your Knees
11. Fancy God
12. Wheels
13. Killing Me II
14. Stand
15. Reprise
16. The Light Brigade
17. Shoeshine
18. When

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Catalogue No: LDR014