Fred Eaglesmith - Ralph's Last Show

Ralph's Last Show

Fred Eaglesmith

SIG 1265

Signature Sounds
P. O. Box 106
Whately, MA 01093

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Moshe Benarroch

Amazing! Amazing! and nothing short of amazing!... Should I say it again? This is the reincarnation of Jim Morrison, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, the early Allman Brothers and all that was great about rock'n'roll before you had to sell a million records to be considered successful. There is more energy in this cd than in the whole MTV top 100 and if someone knew how to convert it into electricity we would have enough of it for the next ten years on the whole planet.

Most readers here may have heard of Eaglesmith when he released Drive In Movie in 1996, but his career goes back to the late 70's, and his first LP was released in 1980. Listening to his 90's cd's you can't ignore the fact that we are talking about a very special performer. A Canadian, he is as good and as special as Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Cockburn and the Cowboy Junkies.

His songs are songs about small town America, about old John Deers that seem to have more life than all of Manhattan and Paris put together, about loving a girl and becoming friend with her father who's trying to ignore this relationship, it's about trains that take you away from life and into a harder life again and again, it's about lost loves and lives, lost illusions and dead ends. Fred Eaglesmith, like Charles Bukowski, has lived this life of despair and not knowing if there'll be food in a week, and he knows how to tell his story and the story of the people he saw in the deep well of the capitalist paradise.

In Ralph's Last Show a double live Cd commemorating the last appearance of Fred's guitarist Ralph Shipper with the band, we get a rough acoustic sound. More acoustic than any of his recordings since 1994's live cd From Paradise Hotel. The songs here are from the years 1996-2001, from the Things Is Changing cd and up to new songs from this year, not appearing on any other cd. The band includes only 4 players, including the special sound of mandolinist William Bennett (If the name sounds familiar, he is the Canadian singer-songwriter from the 70's).

I found versions of 49 Tons, I like Trains and others appearing here from his back catalog to be much better than the studio versions. I think this is Eaglesmith's best cd, and I hope this will be the Comes Alive cd that makes him one of the most famous singers to come from Canada. I think he should be in the same league as the Canadians mentioned here.

Songs range from rocking songs like Mighty Big Cars" and Benching Babies to touching ballads like John Deer and Spooking The Horses. I think this cd could very well find a place in folky's houses like mine, because of its very acoustic sound, as well as rockers, because of its energy. Still, this is not Bill Morrissey and you wouldn't like to go to sleep with this cd. Play it loud!

One minor quibble, the playing time of both cd's together are a bit longer than 80 minutes, and I just wonder why we needed two cd's with a retail price of $22.50 when it could all fit into one cd. But every minutes is worth a million...

Track List:

Disc: 1
  • Intro
  • Freight Train
  • 105
  • Mighty Big Car
  • White Trash
  • Good Enough
  • Livin' Out On the Road
  • Carter
  • Time To Get A Gun
  • Flowers In The Dell
  • He's A Good Dog
  • Lucille
  • How's Ernie
Disc: 2
  • Pretty Good Guy
  • John Deere
  • Carmelita
  • Benchseat Baby
  • Spookin' The Horses
  • Crazier
  • Big Hair
  • I Like Trains
  • Rodeo Boy
  • Crashin' & Burnin'
  • Alcohol & Pills
  • 49 Tons

Edited by: Virginia Wagner

Copyright 2001, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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