Fred Eaglesmith

Like Lyle Lovett with a bad hangover, Fred Eaglesmith is a storyteller who has earned his keep. After his father lost the family farm, Eaglesmith hopped trains and gathered subject matter. Cowboy Junkies, Chris Knight and Dar Williams are some of the folks who have covered his songs. Releasing rough country and folk for more than 20 years, his newest, Dusty, ups the ante by employing Casio beats and lush orchestration. Cynical and still uncompromising, Eaglesmith cherishes his outsider reputation. "I went into a record store the other day, and my CDs weren't in there. And I was glad," he writes on his Web site. His bile makes appearances in surprisingly mellow songs: "I-75," "Codeine" and "Carne del Toro" are slow, dramatic expressions of pain and loss, both personal and professional. Relaxed folksters should steer clear. Eaglesmith's calm presentation belies his deep-rooted, authoritative angst. His is what Steve Earle correctly labels "Real Music."