A little bit of country, a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll
November 20, 2009
When Canadian-based recording artist Corb Lund started writing songs around the age of 19, he didn’t have to look far for lyrical fodder.
"My family are all cattle people for generations, so the Western part came about pretty naturally," he says. "Some people have really diverse backgrounds, but I really don’t."
He took the themes he knew and loved – cowboy culture, rodeo rendezvous and Western folklore – and channeled them into raw country lyrics that ring true for anyone rooted in the American West – or the Canadian West, for that matter.
Two months ago, Lund released his sixth album, "Losin’ Lately Gambler," and embarked on a North American tour to promote his American debut. On Saturday, Nov. 21, he’ll stop at Ciseros Nightclub in Park City.
Although his tendency toward Western music can be traced back to his ancestors, the first musical route Lund traveled was rock ‘n’ roll. He played with the Canadian punk rock band The Smalls for more than a decade.
In the midst of his indie rock phase, Lund realized that he wanted to get back to his country roots and started playing gigs with the Hurtin’ Albertans, a group consisting of bassist Kurt Ciesla, drummer Brady Valgardson, and guitarist-banjoist Grant Siemens.
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Lund plays instruments himself – including guitar, bass and mandolin – but joining a backing band gave him the opportunity to return to his passion for writing.
"I’m not a virtuoso of any of those instruments," he says. "Primarily I’m a songwriter."
His time on the punk rock circuit easily transmuted to country crooning, he says. "I think I bring some of the irreverence of rock music to Western music. As a songwriter, it’s not as different as you think. It’s kind of like playing hockey and football."
Lund’s brand of country is different from the Nashville-manufactured hits you hear on the radio, and much of that is a result of what he writes about, he says. "I write about things that are unique." Not too many guys writing about ranching and roping horses anymore, he notes. He sticks to rural themes and isn’t afraid to throw in a horse doctor, steer rider or ode to rye whiskey. "It’s a little quirky," he says.
A lot of the quirkiness comes from mixing his ancestors and their experiences on the range into his songs. "My family history is a big part of my psyche and my writing." Even though he was born and raised in Alberta, "I really feel rooted in the American West," he says.
His ancestors actually came to the U.S. from Denmark after converting to Mormonism. Both sides of his family converged in Utah in the late 1800s, where they ranched, raised cattle, and a few even crossed over to mining. The religious affiliation didn’t stick, but the cowboy lifestyle did.
Lund’s dad is a pro rodeo cowboy turned veterinarian and a Western watercolorist. His mom, a nurse, was a champion barrel racer in her day. Lund competed in rodeos himself until the age of 15; "Then I discovered rock ‘n’ roll," he says.
Once he caught the songwriting bug, Lund left steer riding and cattle prodding in the pasture. But he held on to his country roots, and says he always will.
"Losin’ Lately Gambler" runs the gamut from scoring drugs off a vet ("Horse Doctor, Come Quick") to a track any cowboy can relate to, "It’s Hard to Keep a White Shirt Clean." Most of the tunes tell a story, and Lund says the songs are more personal than material on albums past.
The title is drawn from "A Game In A Town Like This," a song about playing a losing hand. ("I’m a losin’ lately gambler but that’s not all I’ve ever been/Cuttin’ back your losses is just another way to win.")
He may have been on a losing streak lately, but as Lund picks up fans at every stop on the tour, it’s safe to assume that his luck is turning around.
Lund’s concert at Ciseros starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door. For more information about Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans, visit http://www.corblund.com.