Fred Eaglesmith

Mary Gauthier is one of the hottest commodities in Americana right now. She did only two covers on her wildly successful breakthrough album Mercy, and one was a drop-dead version of Fred Eaglesmith's "Your Sister Cried." Gauthier's take on the Canadian songwriter? "He just shames us all. Fred is so prolific, yet so many of his songs manage to be at the highest level of our craft. There's not another songwriter out there who keeps coming up with this genuine, truth-telling stuff Fred does." Gauthier calls Eaglesmith's songs "examples of why you should write a song. He's as good as we have."

And here comes the ornery, tractor-driving, tour-bus-repairing, personal-records-and-merch-selling Canadian songwriter again, in another careening stop on the never-ending tour that takes him around the world several times a year. A sure draw in spite of his considerable mainstream anonymity, Eaglesmith has a rabid fan base one could easily picture rushing the Bastille with a pitchfork and a barrel of wine, hanging on each song as if they were the words of a prophet.

Yet only last year the stubborn songwriter threw a big chunk of his fanatical Fredheads (plus the whole alt-country establishment, which never really bought into him anyway) a brutal brass-knuckles-to-the-chin uppercut by releasing the mournful, keyboard-driven Dusty. It's one of those records no one knows quite how to take. What can be made of statements like "the Texas is wearin' off your leather boots / you're just dusty, there's flies on you"? Whatever it was we were supposed to make of it, it wouldn't sell soap powder. Or Corn Flakes.

Eaglesmith will preview much of his upcoming 15th album during this stop in Houston. We're not sure what to tell you to expect, though: Most likely, even music critic types will just be scratching their heads or rattling off wild-ass guesses.

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William Michael Smith