Published Jan 27, 2017In music industry terms, Fred Eaglesmith operates off the grid. His albums come out with minimal fanfare, but his loyal audience continues to seek them out and catch the ever-touring roots troubadour on his travels. He turns 60 this year, and his stats are impressive: 42 years on the road, 22 studio albums, and 11 buses.
Eaglesmith mixes things up musically, album to album, and Standard features a sparser and more sedate sound than much of his recent work. Co-produced with Tif Ginn, the singer and multi-instrumentalist who has been a close collaborator for a while now, many of the songs here ("Twin City Mini," "Old Machine," "Thermostat" and "Steam") are love songs to machinery, of the old kind, and Eaglesmith's genuine affection is palpable. His winning way with a line remains, as with "The flames sure look pretty but they sure do burn" ("Flames") and "Icicles drift off your soffits, I had a dream but I lost it" ("Off the Dam"). His rugged and resonant voice is still in top shape, too, and the instrumental work of his regular sidemen is top-notch.
The one misstep comes on "Flames," as Eaglesmith chooses to shout rather than sing the song, to less than pleasing effect. While not quite matching the consistent brilliance of such earlier albums as Tinderbox and Tambourine, Standard is another worthy addition to a discography with few equals in roots music.