Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans
Where: Duncan’s Cowichan Theatre (also Campbell River on May 12, Nanaimo on May 13 and Courtenay on May 14)
When: May 15, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $42 (250 748 7529)
Cabin Fever, the latest disc by alt-country hero Corb Lund, isn’t all doom and gloom.
There’s a fun little paean to German motorbikes (Mein Deutsches Motorrad). And there’s the black-comedy ditty, Priceless Antique Pistol Shoots Startled Owner.
That said, there’s a macabre thread running throughout the album. Dig Gravedigger Dig bristles with rebel-yell vitality but the tongue-in-cheek lyrics are about, well … digging graves (“He don’t mind the cadavers/ He don’t mind the human remains.”). There’s One Left in the Chamber, which is about suicide. And there’s Gettin’ Down on the Mountain, providing survivalist advice on what to do when society crumbles and everyone’s scrabbling to stay alive.
“It wouldn’t take much of a hiccup,” Lund said from Terrace this week. “They say, in big cities, if there was a petroleum shortage, cities would run out of food in about two days,”
Lund has no compunction about tackling bleak subjects many wouldn’t touch. The singer/guitarist, who plays four Vancouver Island dates with his Hurtin’ Albertans, admits he’s never been a follower of musical fashion.
“I’ve always sort of operated that way. I just write what turns me on. So far, it’s worked. I’ve never been one to catch up to radio. I just hope for the best,” he said.
Not a bad game plan, given Lund’s success to date. He’s won a Juno and a slew of Canadian Country Music Association awards (he was named roots artist of the year for seven consecutive years). Cabin Fever, his seventh album, has made inroads on the U.S. charts and scored a thumbs-up from both the Washington Post (“a doozy”) and the New York Times (“an album of pithy mischief and roguish charm.”).
It wasn’t the easiest album to make. Lund has told interviewers the songs didn’t come easily, following the death of an uncle and the breakup of a 13-year relationship.
For weeks, even months at a time, Lund holed up in a remote family cabin outside Edmonton. There he chopped wood and toiled away on tunes for the aptly named Cabin Fever.
“I like the woods, it’s good up there,” he said. “But after a few weeks you go snakey.”
Cabin Fever sounds like a mix of Bob Dylan, the Band, Texas songwriter Hayes Carll (a buddy who co-wrote the song Bible on the Dash) and Edmonton country-punkers Jr. Gone Wild. Think classic country with generous jiggers of rockabilly, blues and roots rock.
Early on, Lund played bass with the Smalls, a speed-metal band which played with an energy that triggered riots. After the Smalls disbanded in 2001, Lund moved to Austin, Texas, where he switched to country.
His country roots go deeper than twang and a cowboy hat, however.
Raised in the small town of Taber, Alta., Lund is a fourth-generation cowboy who competed in rodeos as a kid and won a trophy for steer riding when he was 11. His grandparents, parents, cousins and uncles all competed at the Calgary Stampede. Lund’s mother was a two-time barrel-racing champion in the late ’50s.
And just like a real cowboy — or at least the ones in the movies — Lund is a good poker player, too. In fact, he qualified to play in an international poker tournament two years ago in Las Vegas. Lund says his game of choice is Omaha hold ’em, similar but not the same as Texas hold ’em.
He’s toured hard for the past decade and a half. Lund says it can be “discombobulating” being away from his adopted hometown of Edmonton so much of his life.
“You can kind of lose perspective on your life sometimes,” he said with a chuckle. “But I have friends in so many places. I’d miss ’em if I didn’t make the rounds, you know.”
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