Though many of the songs on Horse Soldier! tell tales of foreign lands, Lund has built his career by spinning distinctly Albertan anecdotes for the past decade, on gold-selling albums like 2002's Five Dollar Bill and 2005's Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer. There are more than a few horse stories on those records as well.
ARTIST WEBSITE: www.corblund.com/site.php
Growing up in Taber, Alberta, Corb 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. Hell, 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 kick-ass, bare-bones backing band he calls The Hurtin' Albertans.
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.
His latest CD Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! is teeming with tales of conflict and cavalry, but Lund hasn't left his home province behind. “Family Reunion” and “Hard on Equipment (Tool For The Job)” speak to the same down-home audience that gave him a video hit with “The Truck Got Stuck.” And on “Especially A Paint,” Lund laments the life he left behind to pursue his rock'n'roll dreams: “Whenever I see horses/ it reminds me of what I ain't … I see a path I didn't take.”
Only a singer as charismatic as Corb Lund could guide the listener through the stories that populate Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!. And you don't have to be a hardcore country fan to follow his musical path, either. Lund brings in Latin and Celtic influences into his driving two-step rhythms, delivered with an aw-shucks sincerity and refusing to talk either up or down to his audience.
Says Lund, “My heroes are the guys who transcend style, whether it's Neil Young or Bob Dylan or Steve Earle or Lyle Lovett. They start out in whatever scene suits them best, and then they grow. Willie Nelson is a country singer, but he's just Willie, you know? Most people who go see him aren't country fans, they're Willie Nelson fans. Hopefully, well-written honest music can transcend those boundaries.”
So far, that hasn't been a problem. Last year, Lund found himself on the main stage at the influential Glastonbury Festival in the UK, playing before his 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.
He explains, “Because of some of the mainstream country play we've been getting, our audience is a mixture of hipsters and regular country listeners. Especially out west, we're really resonating with the cowboys because of the lyrical content. It crosses a lot of societal boundaries, and I'm proud of that.”