Fred Eaglesmith, Continental Club, October 9
Continental Club, October 9 Do you ever get sick of irony? Turn on the TV, and you get pulverized by wave after wave of "aren't-we-clever" smirking that has turned into a tsunami since the early Eighties. Canadian Fred Eaglesmith, on the other hand, doesn't display an iota of post-irony, neo-irony, quasi-irony, or any otherwise-hyphenated-irony in his observations. His songs about drinking, guns, cars, and playing, as well as those about drinking, guns, cars, and playing, simply call things as he sees 'em. Saturday night at the Continental Club, Eaglesmith had the crowd eating out of his hand as he expounded on what our north-of-the-border neighbors laughingly refer to as "summer," the many uses of D'Addario guitar strings, playing gigs in Bandera, bluegrass festivals, and why Canada geese fly south in the fall. Up front, Eaglesmith's lineup seemed pretty standard: acoustic guitar and bass, and mandolin (the mandolin player getting spooky glissandos with a bottleneck and a multitude of effects pedals). Then there was the rhythm section, "Mr. Washboard Hank." Amazing. With a washboard strapped to his chest, various cowbells, mini-gongs, and library-desk "someone please come wait on me" bell, "Hank" resembled some 1890s Jules Verne idea of an android thanks to a steel hard hat with a metal plate bolted to the top and a desk bell in front. Spending most of his time keeping a dead-solid rhythm on the washboard, his fills found him whacking all the devices, right arm flailing like a berserk Mussolini in mid-oratory. Then, on occasion, he'd give a solid backhand thwack to the Continental Club sign with his knuckles. It might have been gimmicky in the wrong black-gloved hands, but here it worked. Eaglesmith, meanwhile, kept delivering his message: how cars, guns, drink, and trains can be metaphors for life situations. On numbers like "Time to Get a Gun," "Water in the Fuel," and "Seven Shells," the titles said it all. In fact, Eaglesmith dares speak the heresy that maybe guns and drink aren't inherently evil, at least not while they're sitting in the closet or liquor cabinet. Matched up with a lineup of rockabilly bands, Eaglesmith didn't quite come across for the hair-and-clothes contingent, but still had a room full of enthusiastic fans who brought him back for two encores. Wow. He's not a singer-songwhiner. He's funny, he can play and sing and write a good song, and oh yeah, he's certifiably, 100% registered irony-free.