Fred J. Eaglesmith and the Flying Squirrels
From the Paradise Motel
This recording, first released in 1994, has attained the status of “Cult Classic” over the years, and is considered by many long-time Fred Eaglesmith fans to be his finest release ever. This is the first recording that Eaglesmith made using the Flying Squirrels as his band, and it represents his first step away from what Fred might call the “Patchouli-Scented Folk Scene.” With the exception of contraption percussionist “Washboard Hank,” the band here is the same band that he is touring with today. The mandolin player and musical heart of the current group, the legendary Willie P. Bennett, makes his first officially-recorded appearance with Fred. Fred’s long-time bandmate, and best friend Ralph Schipper holds down bass-guitar duties. Lynn Miles, who also appears on some later recordings, contributes vocals to “Harold Wilson” in this release.
This release presents Fred at a sort of turning point in his recording career. His next recording Drive In Movie , for Nashville’s Vertical Records label, was a departure from his bluegrass-influenced earlier recordings and his first big-time professional studio production. Drive In Movie would win him critical acclaim, a Juno Award (Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy ), and gain him a broader audience, but this recording is probably closer to what you’ll hear at one of his live shows today. Fred’s writing and delivery here was just as powerful as it is today.
Fred’s current themes have drifted away from “losing the farm” and a little more towards the “sex and rock and roll” side, but the themes and the images of people living on the edge were just a powerful in this release as they are now . Fred’s willingness to ignore political correctness for the sake of truth is also as evident here as it is in his later releases. “Little Buffalo” tells of a couple of Reservation Indians who ride their car into town on the rims because they had sold the tires to buy a couple of cases of beer. The Indians arrive to find the liquor store closed, so they break down the doors and all hell breaks proceeds to break loose in the town. The chorus of “Little Buffalo,” “It’s a tar-paper shack, whiskey and smack, two guns left in a five-rifle rack, somebody’s gonna killed and that’s for shore,’ is probably one of the first hints that Fred’s was moving toward rock and roll. Fred’s songs, while not always pretty, are as close to the reality of the poor and downtrodden as any so-called folk song that you’ll find anywhere. Fred most certainly deserves a seat alongside Steve Earle and Townes Van Zant in the club of songwriters-extraordinairre. Overall, I’d have to at least call this recording the best of Fred’s earlier work.
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