Fred Eaglesmith &
the Flying Squirrels,
Ralph's Last Show:
Live in Santa Cruz

(Signature, 2001)

Ralph's Last Show: Live in Santa Cruz is a two-CD affair full of damn good music. You can hear the crowd sporadically but they just add to the overall energy of the show.

The musicians are good at what they do and it is a blast to listen to them, even when they are playing some of their more serious or tragic songs. Besides Fred Eaglesmith (acoustic guitar, vocals), the musicians are Ralph Schipper (bass, background vocals, doing his last show before retiring), Willie Bennett (harmonica, background vocals) and Washboard Hank (percussion, background vocals).

There is a wide variety in the songs that this group plays. You have the high energy of songs like "Freight Train" and "Good Enough," the country sound of "Livin' Out on the Road," a mournful ballad in "Carter" and a modernized folk/bluegrass song in "Flowers in the Dell." That's just a sampling from disc one; it's hard not to list them all! When you have songs looking at the end of a relationship completely sideways like in "How's Ernie?" it is really hard not to mention each one.

Disc two starts off with "Pretty Good Guy," an understated song with a twist at the end. "Carmelita" is about migrant workers and is incredibly powerful. "Spookin' the Horses" could be any father's words watching his daughter change and grow up. There is a touching tribute to some famous dead musicians in "Alcohol & Pills."

The songs and music in Ralph's Last Show are good. There is a lot of heart in this music and it is well worth the listen.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]
Rambles: 8 September 2001