Published Nov 27, 2013The 20th album from a discography with few equals in Canadian roots music, Tambourine finds tireless troubadour Fred Eaglesmith at the very top of his game. Like fellow maverick Neil Young, Eaglesmith is never content to make the same album twice. 2010's Cha Cha Cha had a retro noir vibe, while 2012's 6 Volts was a lo-fi one mic affair. Here, he time travels back to 1966, infusing his ever-eloquent material with rock, R&B and the Tex-Mex tropes of the time (Blonde on Blonde and Question Mark & the Mysterians were inspirations). Recording on an eight-track analogue console helps capture that period authentically, and longtime creative collaborator Scott Merritt is back on board as co-producer, engineer, mixer and multi-instrumentalist (including very cool organ fills).
Fred will never be mistaken for Otis Redding, but the rugged integrity of his voice works well on such soulful Stax-style ballads as "That's What You Do" (featuring strong backing vocals from Tif Ginn) and "Drunk Girl." There are the inevitable songs about trains here, but Eaglesmith enlivens them with such neat turns of phrase as "she's gone plumb loco without a motive" on "Train Wreck." This gem of an album grabs your attention with the insistent guitar figure of opener "What It Takes" and keeps it to the very end. This Tambourine is bang on. (eOne)