A Cheap and Evil Girl (Trauma Records 1999) - Brash rock singer
Bree Sharp holds no punches on her debut release,
A Cheap and Evil Girl. With bright melodies and jangly guitars (a la Elastica),
Sharp goes straight for the kill.
Sharp grew up in Philadelphia, but
moved to New York City at age 17, where she attended NYU. While Sharp
has drawn comparisons to pop/folk artist Patty Griffin, I find a closer resemblance to Lauren Christy: both have a "Stranger in a Strange
Land" feel in their songs of the difficulties facing young women.
provides vocals on the album, and is joined by Donna DiLego, Simon Austin and Knox Chandler
on guitars, Paul Garisto on drums, and Marty Sarandria on bass.
The leadoff single, "David Duchovny," is about the star
of the "X-Files" television series. Bree recorded a demo video
with celebrities lip-syncing the song, including Brad Pitt, George
Clooney, Whoopie Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell,
and Kiss. However, because full celebrity clearances have not been obtained, the video is not
officially available to the public (although it is apparently a hot underground item).
includes a number of power ballads a la Paula Cole,
such as "Walk Away" and "Fool's Gold." Yet her pop numbers, such as "America" and
"Not Your Girl" (which reads like the refrain to Meredith Brook's "Bitch")
have an accessible feel, with plenty of Alanis attitude.
Bree Sharp gets up close and personal on A Cheap and Evil
Girl. Perhaps too close for some, but the girls just
wanna have fun.
Fred Eaglesmith, 50-Odd Dollars (Razor &
Tie 1999) - On 50-Odd Dollars, folk iconoclast Fred Eaglesmith remains true to the storytelling style he honed in his
native Canada. The eleven new tracks find Eaglesmith expanding into a bigger studio sound, while remaining true to his closely-focused tales
of trailer parks, long nights, and unmet yearnings.
Eaglesmith was raised on a farm in southern Ontario, one of nine children. Religion was key in his
early years, as he grew up in a strict Christian background. (You have to hear Eaglesmith's song about a family
wake on a farm in Canada with the casket in the front drawing room to appreciate his background.)
blends the humorous insights of John
Prine with the hardscrabble of Kris
Kristofferson and the neo-country of Kieran Kane. Now approaching 40, Eaglesmith remains a tireless performer, logging 250 gigs in Canada and the U.S. in 1998, some of
which are far from glamorous. Eaglesmith recalls the "ten shows in Alberta where we did these pig roasts.
We called them 'high octane nights.' It was sort of a trailer trash theme. That's where I sell my records, not
really in stores."
The 35- minutes of 50-Odd Dollars
are a hillbilly mix, with tracks like "Crazier" [though I prefer "Crazier Than Me" from his
Juno-award winning Drive-in Movie (1995)], the off-kilter rock
of "George Overdrive," and the laconic storytelling of "Rodeo Boy."
50-Odd Dollars was recorded with producer Scott Merritt at The
Cottage studios in Guelph, Ontario. Fred's humorous side is more restrained
on the new album, though "Mighty Big Car" fairly reflects his deadpan wit.
In describing his music, Eaglesmith says, "I call it the Ventures meet bluegrass music. Some people call my music alternative country. I'll let them call
me anything as long as they pay me . . . There's a magazine called 'No Depression.' I call my music, 'Some Depression.'"
The band includes Eaglesmith's long-time backing combo, the Flying Squirrels (Willy
P. Bennett on harmonic and mandolin, Washboard
Hank on percussion, and Ralph
Schipper on bass), with studio assistance from Peter Von Althen (drums), Paul Intson (bass), Jeff
Bird and John P. Allen (fiddle), Dan Whitley (mandolin) and Kim Deschamps (pedal steel and guitar).
Being a down-home
sort, Eaglesmith isn't comfortable until he rolls up his sleeves. Says Fred, "Just being an artist
is a joke. What do you do all day? I write more songs than anyone I know and I still got all this free time."
Despite opening for such acts as Merle
Haggard, The Jayhawks, Willie Nelson,
and George Jones, Eaglesmith
has never achieved renown outside a circle of loyal fans and music aficionados. Yet Fred makes the best of it.
"I never concentrated on the major markets . . . There's no end to small towns of 10,000. All you need is
200 to 300 people to show up at the local bar, and you can make a pretty good living."
It's a shame that Fred labours in relative obscurity, because he has real talent and an indomitable spirit. If
you want the real deal, look for 50-Odd Dollars.
The Hangdogs, East of Yesterday (Shanachie
1999) - The quartet known as the Hangdogs deliver earnest roots-rock in the best style of Alejandro Escovedo. Though they hail from
New York City, the band has plenty of Texas attitude and roots riffs to go around.
(all with ties to Syracuse University) consist of Matthew "Banger"
Grimm on vocals and guitar, Automatic
Slim on lead guitars, John
Carlin on bass, and Kevin
Baier on drums and backing vocals. East of Yesterday was originally released
on the band's own local label, and was picked up for national distribution.
the band knows its place. Explains lead singer Grimm, "We don't have any illusions about being
the Next Big Thing. We're small potatoes, and maybe we'll never be big potatoes, but we make friends wherever we
And those fans extend to such cities as Atlanta, Memphis, and especially Dallas, where, according to drummer Kevin
Baier, "They treat us like rock stars."
While the band displays
country influences on songs like "Speed Rack" (complete with pedal steel), the foursome also shows Stonesy grit on tracks like "Something
Left to Save." And there's a big slice of alternative Nashville on "I'd Call to Say I Love You (But I
Despite their big city background, the sweet guest vocals from Barbara Brousal on "In My Dreams" prove
that roots/country is a state of mind rather than a place.
"Growing up, I went to a lot of church services where I didn't see an iota of the spirit or camaraderie that
I've seen at some rock-and-roll shows. That's church for us, and I think there's an element of healing in what
More than healing, East
of Yesterday is a refreshing release, in the style of Dave Alvin and guitarist Mike
Henderson. An honest release, East
of Yesterday is worth a listen.
- Randy Krbechek © 1999
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