And The Flying Squirrels
Ralph's Last Show
Review by Steven Stone
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CD Stock Number: Signature Sounds SIG 1265
It is amazing to me that someone with nine great CD's under their belt can
still be a relative unknown. I guess that's what happens when you're from Canada. Fred Eaglesmith is a fire-breathing redneck poet-laureate who should
be filling football stadiums instead of playing roadhouses. "Benchseat Baby"
typifies his hard-rocking style. His lascivious lyrics glorify the joys of vehicles without bucket-seats. “It’s got a
BENCHSEAT, Baby! You don’t have
to sit over there.” At the other end of the emotional spectrum, "He's A Good
'Ol Dog" can break your heart. Trains, fast cars, and wild times (with and without women) also occupy a large part of his subject repertoire. Not only a
superb songwriter, Eaglesmith is fierce performer as well.
Ralph's Last Show is populated by elemental roots rock that kicks butt from
here to Saskatchewan. On this two-CD live album, Eaglesmith is joined by Willie Bennett on mandolin and harmonica, Ralph Schipper on bass and
harmonies, and Washboard Hank on percussion. The title comes from the fact that this was Ralph Schipper's last show with Fred after touring with him for
many years. Although by anyone's standards this a small band, the arrangements seem rich and full. Eaglesmith generates a wall of sound that
would make Phil Ramone proud.
Packaging and sound are worthy of note. Instead of a crappy jewel case, Ralph's Last Show is housed in a four-panel fold-out container. Both discs
feature garish layouts that guarantee they’ll never get confused with your
Montavani discs. Sound quality is good enough not to detract, but if you’re
expecting it to sound like James Taylor Live you are definitely unclear on the concept of just what roadhouse rock and roll is and should sound like.
Eaglesmith makes old roots-rock pros like John Hiatt and Bruce Springsteen sound like wimpy poseurs. If he isn't the real deal then there just ain't no
Sound Quality: 90