Fred Eaglesmith

Friday, March 4; Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Avenue)

Bleak cellos, claustrophobic Casio samples, rinky-dink reed organ, bleeping and blurring backing vocals, backwards baritone guitar, gut-strings stripped of their guts: The sound of Fred Eaglesmith's latest record is the sound of his own private hell. The Ontario journeyman runs his own label now, and he records whatever pleases him -- or tortures him. You might call Dusty the sound of death warmed over, only all the warmth has been sucked away by the same emotional Hoover that got the rhythmic force which once drove his desolate lyrics. Fred never once picks up his old six-string; he's too busy sitting in a room in a motel at the end of the world, with the TV on -- probably the History Channel, something about a war -- and the sound down (all the better to hear the secrets in the dark). All the country comforts are turned on their heads and pounded into the cold cold ground. Americana: "Horse trailers and truckers/And old station wagons/Driven by women/ With too many kids." Romance: "Tell her you're glad/That it's finally over." Rugged Individualism: "People stare at you/As you stand and cough/Might be the weather/Might be the dust." Healing: "Well the codeine sure makes it hard to round up the cattle." Paranoia -- that most American and oddly fecund state of mind -- may have gotten the best of him, but Eaglesmith got a strange, beautiful, undeniable work of art in the bargain. Let's see how that devil's wager plays out onstage.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Call 314-773-3363 for ticket price and more information.