By Emily Kaitz
On Saturday, Arkansas Support Network will present Canadian singer-songwriter Fred Eaglesmith at the Dickson Theater. Working “outside the pop music radar,” the quirky and irreverent Eaglesmith routinely tours Canada, the United States and Europe. He has an unusually dedicated fanbase, some of whom travel great distances to see him perform. There are even a few folk festivals organized around him. The Grateful Dead had “deadheads;” Eaglesmith has “Fredheads.”
A highly prolific songwriter, Eaglesmith has produced 17 albums in his nearly four-decade recording career. This year his most recent CD, “Tinderbox,” received a nomination for the coveted Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) for “Roots & Traditional Album of the Year.” This is his third nomination for a Juno, which he won in 1997 in the same category for his album “Drive-In Movie.”
“Tinderbox” has been described by the Santa Barbara News Press as “… a field recording from the alternative world of rural Pentecostalism mixed with the artful theatricality and gruff timbres of Tom Waits.” The New Yorker says simply “Imagine a duet record from Tom Waits and Woody Guthrie.”
Eaglesmith has performed in Fayetteville on several occasions at Mike Shirkey’s GoodFolk Productions. One of Eaglesmith’s biggest local fans is singer-songwriter Effron White, who says “Fred’s world is one of rusty, broken machinery — oiled, greased and duct-taped to run another mile before it finds its way to an old junkyard piled high with relics of the past. The same futile repairs in this working-class world also seem to apply to relationships born only to crash and burn. Through the observation and acceptance that this is the nature of things, Fred imparts to his listeners a power over those things that can’t be changed.”
White regularly covers three of Eaglesmith’s songs in his performances, “I Like Trains,” “Soda Machine” and “I’m Wilder Than Her.” Other musicians who have covered Eaglesmith’s compositions include Todd Snider, Dar Williams, Cowboy Junkies and Toby Keith. Martin Scorsese and James Caan have used Eaglesmith’s music in films.
The annual fundraising show at the Dickson Theater has become a tradition for ASN, an organization that provides services and financial support to individuals with disabilities and their families in 14 Arkansas counties. This fundraiser benefits KidsClub, an inclusive summer day camp for children with locations in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Siloam Springs.
ASN CEO Keith Vire, a singer-songwriter, guitarist and luthier himself, especially loves this annual event as it allows him the opportunity to bring a favorite musical performer to the area. Past concerts have featured Steven Fromholtz, Guy Clark, Gary P. Nunn, Billy Joe Shaver, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Chris Smither and Eliza Gilkyson.
Doors open at 6 p.m. and the shows is at 7 p.m. It is a nonsmoking show. Tickets are $25 in advance at Sound Warehouse and $30 at the door.