Music Reviews

20 Odd Hollers: A Tribute to the Songs of Fred Eaglesmith

Various Fans

Seven Shells Productions

I’ve been reluctant to write this myself, since I am a co-producer of it and I am an admitted fan of the songwriter. Since I am so close to it, I’ll purposely try not to tout it in order to preserve some objectivity. I’ll relay the history of it, and if it gets you interested in it, you can judge for yourself as to the quality of the songs by visiting the associated Web site and listening to the samples.

I would imagine that this is a pretty common scenario: You are a musician who plays for your own relaxation and enjoyment. Maybe you play for a few friends on occasion, or maybe you’re even a member of a band that does an occasional gig here and there. You have influences. That’s how you got here. Somewhere along the line, you were at a show and saw a songwriter play a song that you fell in love with. The song was very simple to learn musically, yet the lyrics were very strong. You thought, “I could do that,” and then you try and you find out that you were right. You learned the song and you sounded pretty damn good playing it. Inspired by this, you go to the artist’s back catalog and learn that he has a whole shitload of songs like this. All of a sudden, you are a follower of this artist. You want some of what he or she has, so you study them closely. You sign up on a discussion list and you talk to other fans about the goings on of your favorite artist – among other things. One day someone posts a message suggesting that the fans do a tribute CD. The idea catches fire. You record your version of a song and send it in. The next thing you know, you have a professional-looking and professional-sounding CD, and you are on it.

This is exactly how this CD came into being.

20 Odd Hollers is a take-off on an album with a similar title. 50 Odd Dollars was Fred Eaglesmith’s last studio offering, the title being derived from a statement Fred made about how much he was paid to do the recording. 20 Odd Hollers has separate meanings that are all fairly descriptive in a number of ways. 20 for the number of songs contributed by the 20 fans on the list. Odd in that some of the covers are indeed a bit odd. Cleveland, Ohio’s Stewdogs contributed the definitive “odd” cover of Eaglesmith’s “Mighty Big Car.” Hollers can be interpreted as being either “Hollers,” as in “Field Hollers,” or “Hollers (Hollows),” as in geographic locations, since these are 20 songs from 20 different locations covering a good bit of Canada and the US, and even reaching down into Australia.

With just a few exceptions, these songs were all done by amateurs in their basements or living rooms. A couple of the contributors are professionals, the most notable one being Audrey Auld of Woy Woy, Australia, who is very ably aided here by Bill Chambers on “Crazier.” Bill is the father of, and current guitarist for Kasey Chambers, Australia’s latest rising star in country music.

No specific media format was required of the contributors. Tom McNally, who was in charge of mastering, among other things, begged, borrowed, and rented the variety of equipment necessary to getting all of these songs in their various formats onto the CD. None of the work on this project, beyond just the duplication and packaging, was done by outside sources. Everything from determining the selections to be used, the sequencing, the artwork, the liner notes, the mixing and mastering, and the negotiating necessary to use the songs, was done by members of the Seven Shells Production Committee. Even the modest selling price was decided on by the committee.

Despite the fact that orders for this CD have not been overwhelming, it is now in its second pressing, and a $1500 contribution has already been made to The Hamilton Chapter of The Ontario Schizophrenic Society out of the profits. This is a not-for-profit venture, with any profits slated to go to this Canadian charity.

This recording has already received quite a bit of media notice in Canada. It was written up in The Toronto Star and has been featured on Canada’s Public Radio program, Definitely Not The Opera.

While I said I would not tout this release due to my closeness to this project, I will say that having strong material to start with makes all the difference in the world. It’s hard not to succeed with this kind of material. As much as I hate to say it, in a case or two, these renderings of Eaglesmith’s songs may well rival, or maybe even be better than his own versions of these songs. Check it out for yourself. The Web site has song samples and all of the information you’d need to order it.,

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