Consumer Guide Album
Fred Eaglesmith: Ralph's Last Show [Signature Sounds, 2001]
In the studio, musicianship renders this Canadian singer-songwriter one more rough-hewn troubadour with his heart pinned firmly to his hollow-body. On this live double, his need to shout over bar talk and penetrate the sloppy strum-and-thrum of his drumless good-enough-for-folk-rock band combines happily with the best-of effect, resulting in a raucous celebration of male chauvinism Montgomery Gentry should only envy--for its powers of observation, class solidarity, and laugh lines. The fast hard ones are all great, and they outnumber the medium-tempo corny ones, which bottom out at tolerable and memorably honor migrant workers and a good dog. Not counting the song that goes, "When exactly did we become white trash," my three favorite fast ones are all about souped-up gas guzzlers, the finest of which drives up to an old-age home. Never again do I expect to enjoy an album that begins and ends with songs about trains. Then again, I never expected to enjoy this one.