Describing Fred Eaglesmith’s musical style is like wrestling an eel; just when you think you have it pinned down, it slips from your grasp. But it’s precisely this elusiveness that makes 50-Odd Dollars so compelling. Experimenting with different sonic effects and mixing musical styles, Eaglesmith emerges with an album full of desperate characters, distinct sounds and memorable images.
Eaglesmith knows his way around an arrangement, setting his well-crafted lyrics to a vibrant soundscape of fiddles, mandolins, and whatever instrument that Washboard Hank can get his hands on. A perfect example is “Rodeo Boy”. As guitars rage and ring in the background, Eaglesmith tells the tale of a small-town loser, “a rodeo boy in a one-horse town.” With those simple words, Eaglesmith creates an arresting image that sticks in the brain.
Even when his lyrics aren’t particularly profound, Eaglesmith still soars. “Mighty Big Car” is as simple as the title indicates, but it revels in Washboard Hank’s junkyard-evoking percussion and lines such as, “Elvis had one/So did Hank/They don’t look like money/They look like the bank.” Eaglesmith’s eerie, deadpan delivery carries “Crazier”, in which the narrator begs his new love, “Could you act a little crazier/Just like she used to?”