Hillbilly Highway – Corb Lund pours ’em kinda strong on new release

by Sheldon Birnie

photo: Alexandra Valenti

Alberta’s honky-tonk hero Corb Lund released his sixth solo album last week, Cabin Fever, and the beauty of a disc has already topped the charts here in Canada, in “overall sales,” “digital overall sales,” and “country sales.” I’ve had the disc on repeat for most of the past week, only taking it out to spin the new Propagandhi barn-burner, and there’s good reason it’s dominating sales this week.

With the release of Cabin Fever, Lund’s first album in three years and his strongest, overall, since 2007’s Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!, Lund has been getting plenty of well-deserved positive press. In an interview in No Depression, one of America’s finest Americana rags, Gillian Turnbull calls Corb “the thinking cowboy’s troubadour,” detailing the meticulous writing process Lund engages in with each of his tunes and his appeal to such a varied, wide audience:

“For many, Lund is the voice of the young hipster whose identity has been carved out by urban living, idealism, and a good dose of nostalgia for a vague idea of rural life while for others, he is the mouthpiece for the common, hard-working man whose beliefs have been shaped by a more conservative stance.”

I’ve been a fan of Corb’s, though not necessarily a rabid one until the last few years, since his days in the Smalls. When I was a cook and dishwasher at the Beach Club Bar in Clear Lake, MB, the Smalls were the manager’s favourite band, and they’d stop by to play the greasy little basement bar every summer as they hauled themselves up and down the Hillbilly Highway underground. When they were in town, I’d take my sweet time unloading bar glasses just to catch a couple tunes and listen to the muted noise up in the dishpit. When I was finally 18, I caught the Smalls farewell tour at the BCB, where they played with Brandon, Manitoba’s finest punk rock band, A Few Pennies Short, who were also playing their farewell show that night. I still spin My Dear Little Angle from time to time, and was pleased to see Corb revisit “My Saddle Horse Has Died” on Horse Soldier!

When I was grinding it out in the punk rock underground myself, I had a couple pals who were die hard Corb fans, playing out of tune versions of tunes off Five Dollar Bill around 40ozs of OE in dank punk houses and back yard bonfires. I caught Corb in Kelowna with some of those boys somewhere around 2005, but I was so drunk I don’t really remember the gig. It wasn’t until the Horse Soldier! tour that I caught Corb sober enough to appreciate the great showmanship of the man and his stellar band of Hurtin’ Albertans (including the ridiculously talented Grant Siemens on guitar).

So far, there’s no Winnipeg date booked for the Hurtin’ Albertans, but with sales high and the buzz around the new album humming, I got my fingers crossed for an appearance in 2012. If so, I’ll see you there, friends. Until then, I’ll be gettin’ down on Cabin Fever down on Roslyn. See y’all in the funnies.

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