Music Reviews
4:29 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Corb Lund Built This Album With His Own Two Hands

Originally published on Thu August 16, 2012 6:19 pm

The prelude to Canadian singer-songwriter Corb Lund's new album sounds like a classic country music song. Lund built a cabin in rural Alberta with his longtime girlfriend and favorite uncle, but after the cabin was completed, his girlfriend left and his uncle died. Snowed in for weeks at a time, Lund emerged with Cabin Fever, the title of his new album.

For city dwellers who dream of moving to the country, buying some cattle and becoming gentleman farmers one day, Lund offers a cautionary tale in "Cows Around": it's more bitter than sweet, with a touch of western swing — western Canada, that is.

As a fourth-generation rancher, Lund knows better than to romanticize life on a farm. He's not especially inclined to write about anything romantic without a dose of darkness, which might explain his lengthy tenure in a metal band before embarking on a solo career. But as a songwriter, Lund finds glory in tough work, spotting characters most people would overlook, and celebrating them with colorful sketches like "Dig Gravedigger Dig."

Lund's ironic humor and keen sense of the multilayered strata of American pop culture is similar to Hayes Carll, the wry Texas singer-songwriter who trades verses with Lund on this song. The two friends have traveled a lot of miles together to perform. It's easy to imagine either of them as the touring musician in the song, who swipes a motel room Bible to bring his band good mojo on their road trip. In his defense, those books do say "Please Take One," don't they?

Guns and graves, bovines and bikers, whiskey and women — even with all the references Lund crams into his new record, it rarely feels gratuitous, and that's impressive. It's because he's experienced much of what he sings about. Rural living isn't easy, as he shows, and that's why it makes for such great songs.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The back-story to the new album from Canadian singer/songwriter Corb Lund sounds like a classic country music song. Lund built a cabin in rural Alberta with his longtime girlfriend and his favorite uncle. He finished the cabin but the girlfriend ultimately left and his uncle died. Snowed in for weeks at a time, Lund emerged with "Cabin Fever," the title of his new CD.

Meredith Ochs has this review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COWS AROUND")

CORB LUND: (Singing) Everything is better with some cows around. Living in town sometimes brings me down. Let me bestow this Western blessing and share what I have found. May you always have cows around.

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: For you city dwellers who dream of moving to the country, buying some cattle and becoming gentleman farmers one day, Corb Lund offers this cautionary tale. It's more bitter than sweet, with a touch of Western swing - Western Canada, that is.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COWS AROUND")

LUND: (Singing) What else can make the bishops swear like a sailor might? What else can cause such tension between a man and his wife? What else could ever bring all these enhancements to your life? May you always have cows around. What else is going to get out when you don't close the gate? What else will make you prematurely show your age? What else would take a run at you in a fit of bovine rage? May you always have cows around.

OCHS: As a fourth-generation rancher, Corb Lund knows better than to romanticize life on a farm. He's not especially inclined to write about anything romantic without a large measure of darkness, which might explain his lengthy tenure in a metal band before embarking on a solo country career. But as a songwriter, Lund finds glory in tough work, spotting characters most people would overlook and celebrating them with colorful sketches like this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIG, GRAVEDIGGER, DIG")

LUND: (Singing) Dig, dig, gravedigger. Dig, gravedigger, dig. That big old hole just keeps getting bigger, so dig, gravedigger, dig. Well, he could be making more money. He could be out working the rigs. But he says he don't really like no company. He said he'd rather just dig. Gravedigger, he got secrets, he whispered as he lit up a cig. He said you got to watch you don't badger the hole when you're cutting through the roots and the twigs...

OCHS: Corb Lund's ironic humor and keen sense of American pop culture is similar to Hayes Carll, the wry Texas singer/songwriter who trades verses with Lund on this song. The two friends have traveled a lot of miles together to perform. It's easy to imagine either of them as the touring musician in the song, who swipes a motel room bible to bring his band good mojo on their road trip.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLEASE TAKE ONE")

CORB LUND AND HAYES CARLL: (Singing) We'll hit the road a'feeling cool as Crosby, Stills, Nash overflowing with the spirit and the Bible on the desk. We pull the whole thing over for the flashing red and blues. Police came to the window. He said, have you heard the news? Now, don't get smart with me, boy. Why you doing 95? My foot is heavy with redemption. I'm just blessed to be alive. He said, I ought to pull you out this and beat you black and blue. I placed my hand upon the Good Book, said what would Jesus do?

(Singing) It's better than insurance, registration or lying. It's better than these fake I.D.s I keep on buying. It's even better than an envelope stuffed with cash. But they always fit to send me that old Bible on the desk.

OCHS: Guns and graves, bovines and bikers, whiskey and women - in the hands of another songwriter, all these references might sound cliched. But on Corb Lund's new CD, it rarely feels gratuitous, and that's impressive. It's because he's experienced much of what he sings about. Rural living isn't easy, as Lund shows, and that's why it makes for such great songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIG, GRAVEDIGGER, DIG")

LUND: (Singing) When the oil stops, everything stops. Nothing left in the fountain. Nobody...

BLOCK: The new album from Corb Lund is called "Cabin Fever." Reviewer Meredith Ochs is a DJ and talk show host with Sirius XM Radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GETTING ON THE MOUNTAIN")

LUND: (Singing) You best start thinking where your food comes and hope you tend a good garden. Getting down on the mountain. Getting down on the mountain, don't want to be around when the dish goes down. I be getting down on the mountain. The truck don't run, the bread don't...

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.