Folk festivals may have started out as hippie havens, but they've expanded in…
- Posted on Oct 4th 2012 2:00PM by Lonny Knapp
For cowboys, the wide-brim of a ten-gallon Stetson provides shelter from the sun and rain, but for country singers, its more about fashion than function.
You see, most country singers aren't really cowboys. They come from suburbs and cities. They drive cars. For many, the closest they'll come to riding in a rodeo is getting drunk and trying not to fall off a mechanical bull in some seedy bar.
Corb Lund, on the other hand, is the real deal.
"My parent, my grandparents, and my great-grand parents were all ranchers. I grew up on horse back," he tells Spinner.
But he stops short of calling himself a cowboy.
"I used to rodeo, and I chased lots of cattle, but I hesitate to say it, because it's kinda like Ice-T saying he's a street hustler when he's appearing on Law & Order," Lund says with a laugh.
Indeed, these days, the Taber, Alberta native spends more time on a tour bus than on horseback. The former bassist for beloved indie punk outfit The Smalls, Lund has been making records and touring under his own name since 1995.
In Canada, he's already a success -- he's nabbed a Juno Award and a fistful of Canadian Country Music Awards, and is a staple on the CBC, Canada's public radio. Now Lund is feeling the love south of the border.
Cabin Fever, his recently released seventh disc, debuted atop the Canadian Country charts and logged a lucky 13 spot on Billboard's Heatseekers. It's taken seven albums and almost20years for Lund to debut on the American charts, but he says the timing feels right.
"I have no problem with a slow build, the longer it takes, the more you have to say when you get there," he says. "But I feel like I should win the oldest-newest artist award."
The 12 tracks on Cabin Fever were written during a tumultuous time in the singer's life.
"I was going through a bunch of shit," he says. "I broke up with my girlfriend, and my favorite uncle passed away."
To make matters worse, Lund was suffering from a nasty bout of writer's block.
He spent some time drifting around, living in New York, Austin, and Las Vegas, where he competed in the World Series of Poker, but couldn't find the inspiration to write music.
So when came to write the follow-up to his well-received 2009 effort Losing Lately Gambler he came home to Alberta, hunkered down in a little log cabin in the woods, grew a gnarly a beard, and didn't emerge until he had penned sketches for all the songs.
"I live a populated life, so it felt good to get out in the woods, but after a while I got a little snaky," he admits.
Backed by his long-time band the Hurtin' Albertans, Lund recorded Cabin Fever live-off-the-floor at Edmonton's Riverdale Recorders studios. Without the luxury of overdubs, the immediacy and authenticity of the performances emerge; this is further revealed on the bonus disc included in the deluxe package, which features acoustic renditions of the same 12 tracks performed by an admittedly "drunker," but not-yet-sloppy band.
What it captures is a road-tested band performing without a net.
"I went out of my way to showcase the band this time around," he says. "We've played thousands of shows together and you can't get that type of connection no matter how much you spend on session guys. We are tuned in to each other, and know one another inside out musically."
The apocalyptic "Gettin' Down on the Mountain," the lovelorn "September" and the sorrowful "One Left in the Chamber" find Lund at his all-time bleakest.
But, even in his darkest hours, he never loses his sense of humor.
"Priceless Antique Pistol Shoots Startled Owner," with it's explanatory title and yodeling intro, and "Cows Around," an ode to bovines and the men who love them certainly lighten the mood.
In the latter, Lund rails off a couple dozen breeds of cow; it's not an exhaustive list.
"I missed a couple, and I've been hearing about it," he says. " If you write that type of song, and you miss one, people will let you know."
The jaunty little tune paints cow ownership as a compulsion that drains you of money, time, and patience, but somehow seems worthwhile at the end of the day.
See, Lund understands that without cows, there could be no cowboy culture, no cowboy boots, and no cowboy hats for country singers to perch atop their heads.
"If you take the cows out of the equation, you wouldn't see a guy in Japan wearing a cowboy hat. It's expanded beyond the origins, but the cattle are the foundation," he says. "Back home, everyone I know has a dad, an uncle, or a cousin that must have cattle on their place. Cows are a pain in the ass, but things just don't feel right without a few cows around."