October 4, 2012

Concert #652 - Fred Eaglesmith & Mary Gauthier at McCabe's Guitar Shop (September 30, 2012)

Fred Eaglesmith
Mary Gauthier
This concert was the final stop of a "train thing" known as the "Tin Can Caravan", "Roots On The Rails", "Traveling Steam Show" and who knows how many other names. Featuring Canadian singer-songwriter-jokester Fred Eaglesmith and following the historic Route 66, the train trip started eighteen days earlier in Chicago, with plenty of live music along the way. I bought my ticket only after Mary Gauthier, a part-time trip participant, was added to the line-up a few weeks after the initial concert announcement.

I showed up at McCabe's expecting to see two headliners, Fred and Mary, with the former possibly getting a little more stage time. It turned out there were not two, but six performers. I did not know any of the four unannounced musicians. They performed a grand total of thirteen songs, while Mary Gauthier sang only six. That was a bit disappointing.

The evening kicked off with Gordie Tentrees, followed by Roger Marin and Bill Poss. They all played three-song sets that were decently good. I liked Roger and Bill the best. The latter's humorous "Give My Daddy A Call" is the only song of theirs that I can still recall. They all received support from the members of Fred's band, namely guitarist Matt Simpson, drummer Kori Heppner and bassist Justine Fisher, with Roger Marin pitching in on lap guitar. Throughout the evening, I enjoyed focusing on Matt's electric guitar and his outstanding solos.

Mary Gauthier's set, albeit short, was the highlight of the evening. She was quite relaxed and cheerful and, with a smile on her face, admitted that Justine's good looks were a bit of a distraction to her. Mary sounded just like on her records, with the very same phrasing and vocal inflections. I thoroughly enjoyed everything she did. With the band playing right behind her, I did not miss the sparse accompaniments of her earlier appearances at McCabe's and I think she also enjoyed the higher decibel level of her performance.

Somewhat surprisingly, Mary Gauthier's short set included not fewer than three songs that she did not write. Here's her set list:

I drink
Cigarette Machine (by Fred Eaglesmith)
Thought I Heard a Train (by Tom Mason)
Your Sister Cried (by Fred Eaglesmith)
Last Of The Hobo Kings 
Mercy Now

Mary Gauthier having fun at McCabe's
Mary Gauthier, with Roger Marin (left) and Matt Simpson
For the playing of "Mercy Now", Mary was joined by Vicky Randle on percussion and back-up vocals. Vicky is best known for her many years with the Tonight Show Band. I liked her understated ways of supporting Mary and the final result was a stunningly great rendition of a stunningly great song.

Vicky Randle

After an intermission, Texan singer Tif Ginn, yet another unannounced musician, delivered a well-received  set of four songs. In addition to singing, she played the guitar and accordion. After the show I learned that Tif and Bill Poss  are married to each other.

Bill Poss
Tif Ginn and Matt Simpson
Fred's set can best be described as "something else". One could not tell for sure whether we were watching a stand-up comedian who also sang or vice versa. I liked both his music and humor and even enjoyed his deliberately corny jokes. His unsparing use of the F-Word was a bit unusual for a clean folk music venue like McCabe's, but then again, there wasn't much folk music in Fred's set list at McCabe's. Backed by an electric band, Fred's music was far more rock than folk and who would expect otherwise from a self-proclaimed member of the Rock & Roll Party?

Fred Eaglesmith at McCabe's
Fred's set included "Stars", "Johnny Cash" and the title track from his current album, "6 Volts". He also sang "Freight Train", a song covered by Alan Jackson. His voice was strong and powerful.

Tif Ginn (left) & Justine Fischer
The arrival of the train people
The stage
My friend Steve handing guitar picks to Roger Marin
The merch table
Mary Gauthier greeting her fans, myself included
Fred and Mary arriving at McCabe's
Mary Gauthier memorabilia for your pet

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