March 8, 2008
Corb Lund and The Hurtin’ Albertans, Jubilee Auditorium, Edmonton, (CBC Radio 2), 14 October 2006
photo taken at Manhattan’s in Knoxville, 2007
Howdy Cowpokes. We are venturing into territory usually left unexplored here at the b(oot)log, even if we have approached its borders on occasion – country music. It is rare that a record which is as thoroughly steeped in country traditions and sounds as Corb Lund‘s recent “Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!” would get my attention. There is no flirting with Western themes and the occasional slide guitar here and there: this album is country, but definitely in the best possible way. I think the prevalence of pop-country soured me for too many years to the possibilities of good country music. Having fairly recently become a fan of a number of ‘alt-country’ and ‘cow-punk’ acts, a number of whom I have written about here, I can now give a record like Lund’s a listen and get over any initial aesthetic reservations I might have and thoroughly enjoy it.
While not quite a concept album, an equine theme runs through half of the songs on this record. The catchy lead-off track, “I Wanna Be in the Cavalry”, is a consciously naive ode to the glory of cavalry warfare which is undercut by the realization of the horrors of war recounted in the Reprise at the end of the album, echoing of the rhetoric of bravado which surrounded enlistment at the onset of the First World War and which was rather quickly dashed by the horrors of the trenches. The title track is an stunning, detailed examination of the impact of the cavalry on the history of warfare in just over 5 minutes which is much, much more listenable and enjoyable than you might think based upon that description. Other standout tracks explore different aspects of the horse culture, such as the rodeo, and in “My Saddle Horse Has Died”, mariachi horns and cadence convey the pathos felt at the loss of a trusty steed. Even if you don’t have any understanding of, or interest in, horsed and the cowboy/cowgirl life, these songs are eminently engaging, providing a glimpse into the diverse worlds impacted by horses.
This is a perfectly paced album. It starts off at a quick trot and quickly accelerates into a unrelenting series of foot-stomping biographies of sinners and tales of those seeking redemption. The charming and out-and-out fun tales are temperd by serious themed songs, such as “Student Visas” which recounts a story about CIA-funded covert military operations in Nicaragua which is one of the best songs on the album. After a few melancholic songs, Lund takes mercy on us and serves up a couple of amusing tunes to break the sombre mood (“Hard on Equipment” and “Family Reunion”) before bringing us down again.
Lund is a master of narrative, both heavy and light. He is peerless in crafting songs that capture stories which can range from the autobiographical anecdotes to sweeping historical accounts. Lund’s songs are fantastic whether they are silly or deadly series and he is able to swing back and forth in tone effortlessly. Don’t let any initial anti-country music reservations hold you back: check out “Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!” and allow yourself to be immersed into Corb Lund’s world.
Lund and his Hurtin’ Albertans are currently on tour. There is no Kingston show but they will be hitting the lovely Empire Theatre in Belleville tomorrow night (and I was just about to suggest you go get yourself a ticket but it looks like it sold out between yesterday and today). A few more Ontario dates follow before they head to Australia (they can be found below, full dates at Lund’s website) and you better get your tickets in advance because it seems like there are a lot of Corb Lund fans out there.
8 Mar Saints Showbar Montreal
9 Mar Empire Theatre Belleville
11 Mar Peter Clark Hall Guelph
12 Mar Rose Theatre Brampton
13 Mar Gryphon Theatre Barrie
15 Mar Brock Centre for the Arts St. Catharines
For those who were unable to get tickets to see Lund for themselves here are a few tracks from a concert recorded by CBC (full show can be streamed here) along with a couple tracks off the album.
Corb Lund and The Hurtin’ Albertans, Jubilee Auditorium, Edmonton, CBC Radio 2, broadcast 14 October 2006
* The Truth Comes Out
* Lund family history (talk)
* No Roads Here
* Family Reunion
* Always Keep An Edge On Your Knife
* apologies to the Hutterite people (talk)
* The Truck Song
* All I Wanna Do Is Play Cards
Bonus (from “Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!”)
Buy Corb Lund’s records, stickers, toques etc. here.