Corb Lund has been a part of the Alberta music scene since The Smalls formed in 1990. Though the indie hard-rock legends quit in 2001, the Corb Lund Band–recently renamed Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ AlbertansÂ–have only gotten bigger. Devoted full-time to his hugely successful solo project, Lund is a respected mainstay who creates what may seem to city folk like an oxymoron: good country music. Now, the rest of the country, and potentially the rest of the world, are finally catching on.
After a solid summer festival circuit, including being the only country act to play the main Coke Stage at the Stampede, as well as a cameo in the horror flick Slither (the one with a girl inflating like a balloon), the hardworking Lund is embarking on another cross-continent tour in response to the good vibrations his Hurtin’ Albertans are receiving.
“This year has been really good,” says Lund. “Now the East has caught up, and it’s crazy out there. In Alberta, people know the words to whole records, and now out East it’s like that too, so it’s pretty cool.”
It’s a credit to Lund’s songwriting that crowds manage to memorize whole albums. On his latest, Hair in my Eyes Like a Highland Steer, there are the catchy singles that blanket country radio and CMT such as the famous “Truck Song,” but a few hit tracks alone don’t make an albumÂ–let alone one dense enough to fill three nearly-sold-out Canadian tours.
“I believe in making full records,” explains Lund. “Sometimes you get an album and one or two songs are good, and the rest of it is crap. I try to make it as a unit, with its ups and downs and variety within the album. I’m a big fan of the album format, more than the single. A good album has one or two catchy songs, but when you get tired of ‘The Truck Song,’ there are the deeper songs with more meaning. That’s what I like.”
Whenever Lund came to Calgary in the past, he and his band played to the jeers and cries of their fans in MacEwan Hall. Lund’s new prestige, however, has brought him a bigger, shinier venue: the Jack Singer Concert Hall.
“I don’t particularly care if it’s fancier,” he replies. “Mac Hall was perfect, but we just need to have more people. It’s a good problem to have, but as the band grows, to accommodate the more people who want to come, you gotta go to a bigger place. It’s a nice theatre, but I always prefer playing at a bar. [That’s why] we’re playing at the Whiskey, too. With theatres, people hear all the words properly and stuff, but I feel at home in the craziness and chaos of the bar. It’s like a hockey game.”
Lund, who grew up near Taber but now resides in Edmonton, remains fickle about his hockey loyalties when it comes to the Battle of Alberta. His lyrics in “Hurtin’ Albertan” don’t help in clearing it up, as he sings: ‘There’s nothing like being home at the Saddledome/ With the Oilers at the Flames.’
“This is probably against the rules, but I actually like both Alberta teams,” he confesses. “I’m sort of singing about the province in general. I get to a point where I’ll cheer for both Alberta teams. I know it’s kind of weird, but that’s the way it is.”
His love for Alberta shows in all aspects of his songs, even environmental. Lyrics like ‘Too much oil money/ Never enough booze,’ though tongue in cheek, have other implications as well.
“I think Alberta is one of those last untouched, beautiful places in the world,” says Lund. “We have to find a balance between oil development and ecology. We need to take a hard look at what we’re doing and make sure that it’s sustainable, and not suck up the land. What the government should do with that extra money is take a chunk of it and invest it in alternative energy. We can be leaders of the world in other energy sources. Otherwise, it’s going to be like the Maritimes, [where] the fish are gone.”
Spoken like the ever true Albertan.