Corb Lund
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Corb Lund


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"Corb Lund"

Corb Lund
Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!

By Fish Griwkowsky
5 Stars! Keenly researched, finely textured and curiously historical in nature, this turns out to be Corb Lund's best album. Truly. (more)

Keenly researched, finely textured and curiously historical in nature, this turns out to be Corb Lund's best album. Truly. For who else's fully self-written country album could mention the Charge of the Light Brigade, the slain Mayerthorpe Mounties, Tsar Nicolas and the Afghan special forces - and this is all in one song?

Timed, you have to assume, with Remembrance Day, Lund uses the lethal force of his wit and intelligence to take us along through his dusty and intense fetishes.

What starts as a seemingly simple theme of horse soldiery soon widens into an exploration of combat and sacrifice in general; no more controversial than Sherman's "War is hell," though certainly as targeted.

It's about character as much as anything, those variously mangled and used in the service of patriotism sometimes misguided, other times necessary.

"My sons have both been slaughtered and I know what that song means now," Lund sings in an upbeat, yet frantic slide-blues number about actually being dragged along through these often-named "blues," the balls of your feet raising dust in the ground. Comparing it to some banal Nashville radio song about a son swearing because you did is just devastating. This is country as smart as Johnny Horton and Steve Earle.

Nothing less than a cowboy poetry breakthrough number, A Leader on Losing Control is coincidentally enough about using uncontrollable outsiders as front-line troops. Written before the Blackwater mercenary debacle broke, the song is universally poignant, tense and beautiful as well.

Meanwhile, Student Visas deals with undercover CIA operatives in Nicaragua, one of whom Lund met on the road years back.

"There ain't no fun in killin' folk and I don't wanna do it no more," our anti-hero laments in a chorus. It's heavy and gripping, the stuff of Pierre Burton and Hunter S. Thompson, nostalgic in the sense that we Canadians used to be far more literate creatures.

In an almost theatrical intermission, Lund breaks up the heavier, more poetic stories with a pair of light-hearted and surefire local hits, Hard On Equipment - pun intended - and Family Reunion, where jokes about cousin-dating will kindle out East. But they both got me laughing in an Alice Cooper, Department of Youth way, fading out with their best jokes as the wrong-tool-for-the-right-job star of the first song hits his thumb and yells, "Jesus Christ ... was a carpenter." And Especially a Paint is going to make girls cry, I promise.

Lund resurrects two older songs here, the tragic-hopeful Lament for Lester Cousins and, from way back in the smalls days, My Saddle Horse Has Died. I was instinctively against the latter originally, but done in a muted Calexico style in the album's context it works. Of course it does.

Finally, there's a reprise to the cheerful Pogues-like opening I Wanna Be in the Cavalry, where all cheer has been ground to rotting mush. Frozen battlefront feet, Typhoid and dining on carrion - even horses - is lamented, ending with the Lest We Forget lines, "All I seen were a thousand dreams piled dead in front of me." Then Taps plays to great effect, closing sombrely the most important local release of the year, destined for greatness and in stores Tuesday. - Edmonton Sun - Saturday, Nov 10 2007

"Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!"

You have to hand it to Corb Lund for sticking to his guns. Seemingly poised one gooey love song away from major commercial success, the Taber, AB, son continues to do things his way, doubtless to the delight of his faithful fan base. /Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!/, Lund’s third collaboration with Nashville producer Harry Stinson, is, if anything, an even more ambitious attempt on his part to extend the tradition of country balladeers like Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton, while infusing the established western mythology with his own preoccupations, be it the role of the mounted soldier in the annals of warfare, his family history or his own musical past. Of course, Lund and his impeccable Hurtin’ Albertans (multi-instrumentalist Grant Siemens, bassist Kurt Ciesla and drummer Brady Valgardson, who share a telepathic musical empathy with their front man) make this sound a lot more entertaining than I have.
Though not quite a concept album, /Horse Soldier!/ does dwell extensively on horses, soldiers or some combination of the two. The title track is an encyclopedic consideration of the rise and fall of the armed rider in history – the lyric sheet should come with footnotes – but more affecting for my money is /Student Visas/, a first-person rendering of the moral chaos of Nicaragua’s Contra war set against minor-key Spanish guitar and weeping strings. Lund even resurrects /My Saddle Horse Has Died/, a song he first performed with seminal hard-rock act The Smalls, reimagined here a brass-heavy mariachi lament. He also revisits /Lament for Lester Cousins/, a crowd pleaser from his hard-to-find first album. Committed though he may be to his vision, Lund has nothing against pleasing a crowd and witty foot-stompers like /Family Reunion/ and /What that Song Means Now/, driven by Siemens’s furious Dobro, should do the trick.
– By Scott Lingley
- Penguin Eggs

"Cover Story-Corb Lund, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. By Fish Griwkowski"

Without flinching, Corb Lund grabs the remains of a gopher — more of a candy wrapper, really — and holds it up to the baby ravens in the rafters, the emotionless culprits in this small murder. It’s slightly unfathomable, but we’re handpicked guests at Ian Tyson’s ranch in Southern Alberta, where the foothills start kicking up trouble on the prairie. It’s a landscape currently washed grey by unceasing weather, a final echo of the Wild West. It’s also the wellspring of many a rodeo boy and country singer, both of which Lund was and is. Not to mention a rabid head-banger, but we’ll get to that.

Tyson’s horses are hungry and the two singers, being natural ranchmen by birth and subsequent design, walk hay bales over to one of the chiselled creatures. The men’s slickers are dripping with this incessant and almost “biblical rain,” to steal from Lund’s educated cowboy lyrics. Here, I feel like a computer nerd covered in pork chop grease in their manly, stoic presence.

Up close and in conversation, the two are very similar — frank and friendly guys with long histories. Both outsiders by choice, neither has the inclination nor the time for bullshit. Which is not to say that Corb won’t “waste time” discussing political parallels between the American president and Emperor Palpatine at great length. But when he does it’s with an eager seriousness that brushes away the usual sighs from the girls. Somehow, because of his height and credentials that allow him to essentially be a giant boy for life, he can get away with pretty much anything, from kicking over hotel chairs when he’s drunk to falling asleep on my arm on a long drive into the comfortable hills.

I’ve joked with Lund about his musical obsession with the nouns of his immediate, rural biosphere. This is not to take anything away from his atypical and literate lyrical skills, but in these surroundings it seems easy to write country songs, particularly on the sprawling claim of Tyson, this country’s most famous living cowboy. Around every corner is a weird insect, a tombstone, a soaked cat with tattered ears or a mounted steer skull whose horn-span you would never tease. Life and death. Cowboy poetry. It’s a natural setting that Lund has drawn from many times in four albums, from its vistas to its oil rigs to its drunken fools. You don’t ever get the sense that he’s trying to succeed so that he can move to Nashville, which is part of his immediate charm. He is Alberta for life. He’ll spend his earnings here.

Without prompting, Lund disassociates himself from the cheeseball hot country that flourished across the continent in the last decade and is since painfully starving to death. “Fuck that noise,” he’s said more than once. “It’s the worst.” Truthfully, he’s anxious to fill the vacuum, rather than just spit at its occupants. And though he’s much more fun, slick and polished than your average bootgazing alt-country act, Lund also steadfastly refuses to pander to the Tennessee industry formula that states you must falsely adopt its local accent, thank God in your liner notes and generally suck steaming bull eggs to sell records.

And sell he has. There has been much subjective debate around here about who the best independent band in Edmonton is. The hard-rocking Whitey Houston? Sweet and sassy Columbus? The intricate songwriting of Twin Fangs? Thunderous Choke? The theatrical panache of the Wet Secrets? But while these bands thrive on artistic reactions against their surroundings, Lund wholly embraces them. Adding to his Prairie city audience, who lap up an ironic taste of hillbilly “git-go,” this has allowed the tall, dark songwriter massive crossover into rural communities that is spreading east. With almost 30,000 copies of 2002’s Five Dollar Bill sold, he outclasses any other indie band at home, at least in sports terms. He’s eager to match that again, you can understand.

There’s a lot of animal stuff on the new record,” 36-year-old Lund says, getting back to the country nouns thing. Back in Edmonton, we’re finishing off a case of Pils; he sits with his legs open, tapping his foot to the Russian Gypsy music in the background. The slouching giant is finally at ease talking about his fourth album, Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer, due September 6 on Stony Plain Records after three years of dragged-out brewing up here and in Nashville. It’s an album that makes you smile a lot, almost a resurgence of “take this job and shove it”-era country, but mines its depth, too. We’ll get to that later, as well. “I didn’t realise it till I went through the lyrics, but there are cattle and horses and bison and antelope and white-tails and bullfrogs and sheep, dogs and, uh, party animals.”

Speaking of which, Lund has just returned from a somewhat localised tour (compared to some of his epic forays into Europe or Oz), driving with his band, his hardworking girlfriend and his D&D (drunken and dangerous) buddy from Edmonton to Regina. “I’m kind of in post-dr - Exclaim! Magazine


Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! (2007) - Stony Plain Records
Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer (2005) - Stony Plain Records
Five Dollar Bill (2002) - Stony Plain Records
Unforgiving Mistress (1999)
Modern Pain (1995/2003)



Growing up in Taber, Alberta, Lund’s lineage boasts over a century of cowboys. And thanks to his keen lyrical pen, Lund’s Alberta is ready to take its place in a long line of immortal locales lucky enough to have their own poet laureates who paint vivid pictures, spin mythologies and create memorable characters. Think of any of the following: Bruce Springsteen’s New Jersey; Stan Rogers’ Maritime provinces; John K. Samson’s Winnipeg; Lou Reed’s New York City; Stompin’ Tom Connors’ small town Canada; Lucinda Williams’ Louisiana.

And yet voices like those are increasingly rare. Mainstream pop music of all stripes - rock, country, R&B, even hip-hop now - ignores regional specifics, to the point where even as gifted a storyteller as Corb Lund once questioned his lyrical outlook.

“Everybody's going for generalities, when sometimes the interest is found in the quirky details,” says the proud Albertan. “I had insecurities about whether people outside of my culture and geographical area - which is the prairies and foothills of Western Canada - would be interested. But so far they have been: as far away as Europe, the UK, Australia, and even Toronto.

“But I believe that if you write honestly and authentically about your own culture, no matter what it is, people will pick up on the universality of it. My family has been in Alberta chasing cows for a hundred years, and in the American west long before that, so that's where I feel at home.”

Not only does he write the kind of timeless melodies that sound like they’ve been handed down by oral tradition, he boasts a top-notch, bare-bones backing band he calls The Hurtin’ Albertans.

Kurt Ciesla, upright bass player for the Corb Lund Band, was raised in Lethbridge, Alberta. An extremely versatile musician, he is a former member of funk acts Blue Locutus and Bubba and is a familiar and respected musician in the Edmonton Jazz music scene. He has performed a number of times with the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra, including a live concert on the MacIntyre Ranch. Kurt is all about the bass.

The very talented and capable Brady Valgardson of Taber, Alberta is the band's drummer. Brady comes from a family of drummers and has performed with several bands in southern Alberta where he currently lives and works on his family farm.

Grant Siemens is the most recent member of the Corb Lund Band. A Winnipeg native, Grant lends his talents as a lead guitar, lap steel and banjo player, providing a refreshing fourth dimension to the band's sound.

Last year, Lund found himself on the main stage at the influential Glastonbury Festival in the UK, playing before his pop biggest audience
to date, in a slot right before the Waterboys and The Who. He’s long been a favourite
on the rodeo and folk festival circuits. He and his band were featured in the horror movie Slither. He’s still remembered in Canada’s indie rock community for his decade in the punk band The Smalls. He has video hits in Canada and Australia. And in 2006, fellow Albertan Kurt Browning performed a figure skating routine to a Corb Lund song for an NBC special. More recently, Crowsnest Films has been nominated for Best Music Video for Corb's “I Wanna Be In The Cavalry” by The Alberta Motion Picture Industry Association (AMPIA), and Corb has also received nominations for the 2008 Juno Awards.

Ultimately, Lund’s lyrics are what set him apart from every singer/songwriter trying to reinvent the wagon wheel. With a firm grasp of history, a colourful vocabulary and an aversion to typical love songs, Lund is a storyteller, first and foremost. That makes him part of a dying breed.