Eaglesmith at the chapel

Fred Eaglesmith
Fred Eaglesmith will be in concert at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs.

By Julian Wise - May 31, 2007

Fred Eaglesmith's musical genesis would sound like a cliché if, darn it, it wasn't actually true. The roots-folk singer, born in the late 50s, grew up on a series of farms in southern Ontario. He bought his first guitar with $12 he scraped together doing farm chores. Seduced by the sounds of Elvis Presley and roots music making its way into Canada from distant radio stations, Eaglesmith left home at 16, hopping on freight trains and traversing the Canadian landscape. His songs on the albums "50 Odd Dollars," "Falling Stars and Broken Hearts," and the recent "Milly's Cafe" are populated with characters from this vast landscape: hardscrabble farmers, working class heroes, heartsick young men, wicked women, and other colorful characters.

"I think the bottom of the barrel is where the answers are," Eaglesmith says.

Over the decades, Eaglesmith has developed a fervent following. His songs have been covered by The Cowboy Junkies, Chris Knight, Dar Williams, and Kasey Chambers. His singles have appeared on the soundtracks to the films "Viva Los Nowhere" and "Broken Bridges" and Eaglesmith himself appeared in the Canadian TV movie "The Gift" in 2001. In the past decade, Eaglesmith's touring band has been followed by a growing cadre of fans called "Fredheads," who are beginning to rival Deadheads in their penchant for traveling thousands of miles to catch live shows. Eaglesmith has won Canada's Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album and the Canadian Independent Music Award. "Milly's Cafe" reached the Americana top 10 in 2006 and is nominated for Canadian music awards this year.

The past several years have found Eaglesmith and his band traversing far-flung corners of Canada and the U.S. to share his unique troubadour perspective. This week's show will add Martha's Vineyard to the list of towns visited by Eaglesmith and his band in their ongoing musical journey.

Fred Eaglesmith concert presented by KCT concerts, Thursday, June 7, 8 pm, Union Chapel, Kennebec Ave., Oak Bluffs.

Julian Wise is a contributor to The Times.