Lonesome Onry and Mean

Fred Eaglesmith Is Back, Existential As Ever

"My life is about not being accepted. That really is where it started and where it ended."

- Fred Eaglesmith in the documentary There Ain't No Easy Road

Always at the forefront of indie music options and operations, Fred Eaglesmith has been doing his own thing so long he's got it down to a smart science. Labels go out of business, Fred Eaglesmith goes to the bank.

And if this is February, the rascally Canadian must be in Texas, far from the wintry blasts of Arctic air that blow through his home town of Port Huron on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. Eaglesmith's momma didn't raise no fool.

His three-ring circus blows into town Tuesday with a new record, Cha Cha Cha, filled with more of the earthy, existential Eaglesmithisms that have drawn him a worldwide group of fanatic followers and hero-worshippers known as FredHeads.

They became fans because they know they can always count on Eaglesmith to drop something so telling that it cuts across class, race, gender and cauterizes some bleeding psychic slash, like this pithy little sentiment that punched Lonesome, Onry and Mean right in the solar plexus: "I could be that shallow too/ If I wasn't in so deep" ("Dynamite and Whiskey").

Like Bob Dylan, Eaglesmith walks that fine line between moving in a new direction and alienating a portion of his audience by failing to meet certain expectations. In fact, the past half-dozen Eaglesmith albums have been met with favorable yet cautious reviews, all generally reading "[Album Title] may be slightly confusing to Eaglesmith's fans, but if you give it a chance it may grow on you."

Whatever. That's just seems like a smoke screen for a timid reviewer who is afraid to piss off any of Eaglesmith's fans. The singer-songwriter is an artist first and foremost, and every time we've ever talked to him he's been basically "I don't give a shit" about anyone who claims to be a fan but then says "I don't get this album."

With its bossa nova overtones and its almost murderous murk, Cha Cha Cha has certainly confused some fans and some reviewers. Watch, though: In three or four years everyone will be calling it his best ever.

Ironically, the hard-touring Canadian of Dutch descent has been a world phenomenon the past 15 years, rolling through North America and Europe harvesting currency like an Bucyrus-Erie combine in high gear in a field of winter wheat, yet he'd never appeared on a national television show until he did Letterman last June.

Anyway, Fred's back in town, just as ornery and prickly as ever. Cha cha cha.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22, McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5999 or www.mcgonigels.com.

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