Corb Lund Ditches Quirk for Heart on 'Things That Can't Be Undone'
Published Oct 20, 2015Corb Lund has lassoed plenty of fanfare and press over the years with his cheeky cowpoke musical antics — be it yodelling or penning lyrics about saddle-bucking steeds and trucks getting stuck in thick prairie mud. Listeners who long for such heartland-tinged chuckles will delight in "Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues," a hilarious midway track on the Albertan country vet's new album, Things That Can't Be Undone, out now on New West.
"I used to work a lot of shitty jobs," Lund tells Exclaim! "That's the fear in the back of most musicians' minds, to have to do a regular job again."
But Lund is quick to add that the song — about trading his six-string for a broom and enduring taunts from the former boss that he has to crawl back to — isn't autobiographical. In fact, he wrote the fictitious, joke-loaded tune with pal and fellow Americana songsmith Evan Felker of the Turnpike Troubadours.
"I don't co-write very much; in fact this is one of the few successes I've had with that. We just had some beers and wrote a great song."
Writing much of the rest of Things That Can't Be Undone was a far more sobering, and sombre experience for Lund. He explains: "I went through a lot of loss in recent years — my dad, my niece and my grandma. So this record reflects that, and is a little darker."
Such heartache is evident in the musical tone and lyrical theme of "S Lazy H." The tune features tender acoustic strumming and Lund's earnest singing about a young rancher — based on an amalgamation of his prairie friends and acquaintances — who laments his sister selling her share of the family property, which results in him losing the rest to greedy bankers and realtors.
"S Lazy H" was the first song he wrote for this new LP, and after testing it on the road over the past year, Lund has come to realize just how much fans have to come appreciate his earnest deep cuts as much as his quirky hits.
"I've played that song all through the Canadian and American west, and I was surprised by how much it resonates," Lund says. "Almost every time I play it, someone comes up after and tells me they're going through that now."
Fans are sure to be equally moved by "Sadr City," which features an uncharacteristically chiming indie rock riff (which Lund attributes to acclaimed Nashville producer Dave Cobb and Grant Siemens, the guitarist of his backing band the Hurtin' Albertans). Lund penned the tune's lyrics from the perspective of an Iraq war veteran, after meeting several solders who were fans of his 2007 LP Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!!, which is laden with military odes.
"These guys had a few beers with me after my set, and told me their story," Lund says of the vets, who fought in an infamously bloody battle in the Sadr City slum on the outskirts of Baghdad, an altercation that took place shortly after president George W. Bush's notorious "Mission Accomplished," speech. Lund adds: "The song is their story, really. I mostly just set it to music."
Lund says it is deeply rewarding to know that soldiers could be moved by "Sadr City," and that rural landowners have been touched by "S Lazy H." "That feels good, although it's hard to start out with that goal in mind. You have to start out with the goal to just write songs. But it's nice that people are being moved by it."
He adds that writing such serious fare not only fulfills him emotionally, but also creatively.
"Sometimes I get tired of playing the cutesy ones live," Lund says of his humorous hits like "Truck Got Stuck," "Roughest Neck Around, and "You Ain't Been a Cowboy (If You Ain't Been Bucked Off)." "I'm proud of those songs, but sometimes you want to change it up a little. This is our eighth album, so I was really open to trying something new."
As previously reported, Corb Lund is out on a North American tour and will play plenty of Canadian dates in the new year. You can see all the stops here and stream all of Things That Can't Be Undone below.