For the best part of 20 years Alberta’s Corb Lund has been following his own muse, creating and performing the kind of music that makes him a happy independent artist rather than the type of tunes that fit into the current hit formula. While this hasn’t made him a wealthy pop star he has enjoyed a steadily growing success and acclaim with a dedicated fan base across the continent.
After spending a decade with Alberta’s legendary and successful alternative band, The Smalls, Lund went on his own to focus on his songwriting, in the early 2000s. With the backing of the top-notch players in his Hurtin’ Albertans band (bassist Kurt Ciesla, multi-instrumentalist Grant “Demon” Siemens, and drummer Brady Valgardson) Lund has put out seven solo records, won numerous awards and spends about half of every year performing live concerts in Canada, the U.S. and Australia.
Prior to his concert tour of B.C. (Corb Lund and The Hurtin’ Albertans perform on Saturday, May 11, 7:30 p.m. at the Clarke Theatre, 33700 Prentis Ave., Mission), Lund spoke with The Aldergrove Star.
Lund’s music definitely has its roots in old-school country honky-tonk but his sly wit and jazz-influenced chords are not the typical fodder you’ll hear on “new country” radio.
“I don’t really listen to modern country music,” says Lund. “I don’t listen to a lot of any modern music, it’s just not my cup of tea. I like older stuff and weirder stuff.
“Alternative country is just way more interesting to me. Mainstream music is all formula, and it’s losing its power, slowly. Times are good for underground music, there are lots of avenues and people are discovering the nooks and crannies of music, not just the big pipeline.”
Lund says, “Here (in Canada) our fans are half country, half folk festival songwriter fans, down there (in the U.S.) it’s almost all underground country fans, you don’t hear many mainstream country stations playing our stuff down there. It’s kinda good in a way, almost all our audience is people who like alternative country and songwriters.”
Lund’s songs tell stories — from “goth” girls to survivalists, bovines to bibles and antique pistols to vintage motorcycles — and the styles range from rockabilly to western swing, cowboy balladry to country-rock, with an occasional yodel thrown in. This diversity is heard in such concert favourites as Truck Got Stuck, Roughest Neck Around and Hair in My Eyes Like A Highland Steer.
His latest album, Cabin Fever, went to number one in Canada. It was his second album for the New West Records label and was recorded at a rustic retreat deep in the Rockies, and evolved from a period of introspection and hard traveling.
Lund says the sparser, acoustic “demo” versions of the dozen songs on Cabin Fever sounded so good that when the polished electric versions were completed he couldn’t decide which he preferred. Thus he released a special double-album edition that “we put them all on, with all of the songs in both versions, electric and acoustic. It’s pretty cool.”
The album has a wide range of song styles: the regretful ballad (The One I Left in the Chamber), the twangy paean to survival (You Ain’t a Cowboy If You Don’t Get Bucked Off), the raucous (Drink It Like You Mean It), the apocalyptic (Gettin’ Down on the Mountain), the blues-rockin’ (Dig Gravedigger Dig), the wily road tale (Bible on the Dash), and the Betty Page-inspired (The Gothest Girl I Can).
Bible on the Dash was co-written with Texan alt-country star Hayes Carll, who shares Lund’s taste for wry, droll humour, and duets with Lund on the album version. “We get along pretty well; we met years ago at a festival in Dauphin, Manitoba. Done tons of touring together since then; we opened for him in the States, he opened for us up here,” says Lund.
Lund spends about half of each year on the road, to pay his bills and to get his music to fans. “I like the balance, I get out for a while, then get home. I get some royalties but yeah, most (of his income) is from touring.”
While New West Records has signed artists like Steve Earle, “It’s still kind of a small label. We’ve been doing everything pretty grassroots the whole time. I’m fine with that, we’ve always been a live band and I never expected to get anything mainstream with anything we did.”
On this concert tour fans can expect Lund to “play a lot of new songs, old ones too — with seven records we try to hit all the high spots. Every night’s kinda random ’cause we don’t use a set list, I just call out songs (to the band) all night.”
Lund agrees that he is all over the map, lyrically and stylistically.
“I’ve always taken the approach with both bands (The Smalls and The Hurtin’ Albertans) to keep doing stuff that keeps me interested. Sort of selfish about it but I guess if you keep doing it other people find it interesting too.”
Presented by Country 107.1 and Rock.It Boy Entertainment, tickets for Saturday’s show in Mission (with Ridley Bent opening) are $34.50 (plus facility fee and service charges) at all Ticketmaster locations, charge by phone 1-885-985-5000 or online at www.ticketmaster.ca/. For more information visit www.corblund.com/.
-with files from Rock.It Boy Entertainment