Fred Eaglesmith Falling Stars and Broken Hearts

"I ain't ever givin' in," Eaglesmith tells us before adding the careful qualifier, "anytime soon." His tenth album, and first of new material in three years, is possibly his best, or maybe every new Eaglesmith record feels that way, I can't remember. Straying from producer Scott Merritt for the first time in six years, Falling Stars... is a more accurate representation of his live show, without the groovy Guelph vibe of the Waits-esque Merritt albums that some of his live followers found baffling. Falling Stars sounds no less creative, but more in a 21st century Sun Studio kind of way, with heaps of slap-back reverb and Willie P. Bennett's otherworldly electric and acoustic mandolin work. Eaglesmith's character sketches read like a middle-aged rural male version of Alice Munro's short stories, usually in less than three minutes flat: the plight of the snow plower in "Cumberland County," the creep who wonders, "What's a pretty girl like you doin' without me?," or the baffled ex who could understand if his girl left him for a movie star or someone who looked "a tiny bit like me," instead of the "Ordinary Guy" of the title. With two exceptions, every track here is an Eaglesmith classic. Although hardly a young pup, he's still improving with age. (Outside)