Lately Gambler marks the American debut of Corb Lund, Canadaís acclaimed,
authentic alternative country star.
by the noted Nashville drummer and vocalist Harry Stinson (of Marty
Stuartís Fabulous Superlatives), Lundís first New West album is the
Alberta-born singersongwriterís sixth. He has already impressed listeners
and critics at home: Lund has been named Roots Artist of the Year by the
Canadian Country Music Association for the last five years running and
was again nominated this year. He collected the Roots and Traditional
Album of the Year trophy for his album Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland
Steer at the 2006 JUNO Awards (the Canadian Grammys), and took home a
CCMA Album of the Year award for the set as well. His ambitious 2007 song
cycle Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier! was nominated for the prestigious
critical accolade, the Polaris Music Prize.
by all the praise naturally: Unlike many so-called "country artists"
these days, he is no drugstore cowboy Ė heís the real McCoy. "My family
is all ranchers and rodeo people," Lund says. "Theyíve been in Canada for
about 100 years, and before that they were raising cattle in Utah and
Nevada. Some of my relatives are still down there. I grew up rodeoing. I
was a steer rider Ė thatís like the junior version of bull riding. I was
on horseback pretty much as soon as I could walk."
interest in musical storytelling was bred by his boyhood love of Marty
Robbins (whose classic 1959 LP Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs was a
crucial discovery) and Johnny Horton (whose hits like "The Battle of New
Orleans" and "North to Alaska" impressed the budding history buff). Lund
acknowledges the impact of other performers Ė Kris Kristofferson (now a
New West label mate), Rambliní Jack Elliott. But some even more important
influences ran in the family.
grandpas used to sing all these old Western cowboy ballads," Lund says.
"Those songs come from before recorded music -- theyíre traditional
numbers that the cowboys always sing in camp, or just for fun, to
entertain themselves. My grandpas knew all those songs. The first song I
ever knew was called ĎThe Strawberry Roan,í a cowboy song thatís at least
150 years old."
and Western music has always run in Lundís blood, but before he began
performing it full-time, he was swept away by indie rock. From 1989 to
2001, he worked with the aggressive Edmonton band the Smalls.
call it punk rock Ė they say that because it was an indie kind of project
Ė but it was more like a modern kind of Black Sabbath thing," Lund says.
"It was a very do-it-yourself, independent-scene kind of thing. So it was
kind of punky. We did four records. It was good Ė we sold about 40,000
records. I think if the band had been from Chicago or New York or Los
Angeles, we might have been able to take it further, but it was a niche
music, and we took it about as far as we could take it in Western
Canada." He continues, "About 1993 or í94, I started playing country
gigs. Thatís the stuff I grew up with. I never really stopped playing it
and liking it. There was quite a long period where I was doing both. From
a writing standpoint, itís not as different as you might think. I would
compare it to sketching in pencil versus doing oil paintings." Lundís
latest series of oils, Losiní Lately Gambler, features a gallery of
subjects drawn from real life.
"A lot of my ancestors pop into the songs. Iíve got quite a cast of
characters to draw from. I feel a real kinship with the old West. A lot
of my ancestors were ranchers, but one of my great-grandpas was a road
gambler in Montana in the 1880s. Iíve got some miners in there. My
grandpas in particular were full of lore Ė they had lots of
great-grandfather may be the model for the hard-luck gambler of the new
albumís "A Game in Town Like This." His own rodeo experience animates
"Steer Riderís Blues." And Lundís father, a veterinarian, likely served
as the inspiration of "Horse Doctor, Come Quick" and "Talkiní
Veterinarian Blues." Some characters, like the deadly female gunslinger
of "Devilís Best Dress," hail from Western folklore, while others Ė the
busted-out rancher of "Long Gone to Saskatchewan," the farmer displaced
by oil drillers in "This is My Prairie" Ė spin stories torn from Canadaís
daily papers. These vivid depictions of the Canadian West are never less
than universal. Lund notes, "My gut feeling at the beginning, which I
think has been borne out, is if you write about what is familiar to you
and do a good job of it, the specifics fade away and the universality of
the message comes through. When I was younger, listening to Springsteen
singing about the slums of New Jersey, that was alien to me, but I got
it, because the music is so good. Thatís what I aspire to Ė to paint a
picture thatís intriguing." Like Lundís last four albums, Losiní Lately
Gambler was produced by Harry Stinson, the Nashville-based drummer and
vocalist noted for his work in Marty Stuartís virtuoso unit the Fabulous
Superlatives. Lund is backed on the collection by his longtime band the
Hurtiní Albertans Ė bassist Kurt Ciesla, drummer Brady Valgardson, and
guitarist-banjoist Grant Siemens.
his group, who will support Losiní Lately Gambler with extensive touring,
have already made their mark as a top concert act. The Hurtiní Albertans
routinely sell out arenas at home, and theyíve enlisted a legion of fans
in the U.S. from Montana to Texas with appearances with alt-country stars
like Robert Earl Keen and Hayes Carll.
audiences are not restricted to country enthusiasts, however: Lund has
appeared on eclectic bills at high-profile events like Englandís
Glastonbury Festival (alongside the Who and the Alarm), Canadaís Virgin
Festival (with Stone Temple Pilots), and Australiaís Byron Bay Blues
Festival (Buddy Guy and David Gray also appeared on the bill). He
appeared at New Westís 2009 showcase at Austinís South By Southwest Music
folk fests and rock fests and country fests." Lund says. "I write my own
stuff, and a lot of the regular country guys donít. I think thereís a
kind of quirkiness to the writing that opens it up a little bit to people
who might not normally pick up on country & Western stuff. Iím in a
unique situation: I grew up country, and I spent 10 years in a rock band,
in a situation where you were encouraged to be unique and strive for new
sounds. I bring that kind of thing back to my country writing. Thereís
enough of an irreverence to it where it steps outside the boundaries of
whatís traditionally expected."