Music Review: Corb Lund – “Cabin Fever” [New West Records]

Corb Lund knows a thing or two about music styles. He left family’s ranch in Taber – a town in southern Alberta, Canada – and moved to Edmonton to enroll in the Grant MacEwan College to study jazz guitar, He also briefly also fronted punk and metal bands before settling into his current role as one of the best Americana (Canadiana?) singer/songwriters working today.

He’s also a Juno Award winner who has multiple Canadian Gold Records to his name, and has played on bills, at festivals, and special events with The Who, Emmylou Harris and Robert Plant, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell. He has also won the Canadian Country Music Awards Roots Artist of the Year seven times running. Not too shabby.

Along with the his considerable knowledge and expertise of musical styles Corb also knows how to turn phrase. Language is an element in abused by today’s music, but Lund’s wry observations are reminiscent of lyrical masters – Roger Miller, Terry Allen and his contemporaries Hayes Carll (who appears on this new albums “Bible on the Dash) and James McMurtry. The melodies, musicianship and word smithing blend to form an organic whole that belies its sophistication ans sounds natural and at ease, Or as Lund describes his process “Chaos and irreverence informs the way I write. I’m also drawn to harmony and chord choices that are outside the norms of country (music.)”

On his seventh album, ‘Cabin Fever,’ Lund and his band the Hurtin’ Albertans continue their reign of excellence. Written in his cabin in Alberta, as well as New York City, Austin, and Las Vegas, the album takes us on a musical journey of survivalist country funk (“Gettin’ Down On The Mountain”) the vocational risks of planting cadavers set to a swampy stomp (“Dig Gravedigger Dig”) and divine protection against Smokey harassment (“Bible on the Dash”) with aforementioned Hayes Carll sounding like their having a great time.

Lunds provides his own unique interpretation of great country themes. There are a couple of top-notch weepers (“September” and “(You Ain’t A Cowboy) If You Ain’t Been Bucked Off”) boozers (“Drink It Like You Mean It” and “Pour ‘Em Kinda Strong”) and Western Swing with the ode to our bovine friends “Cows Around (which includes a pretty decent primer of the variety.

A couple of Rockabilly cuts muscle in on the action with a tribute to vintage BMW motorcycles (“Mein Deutsches Motorrad”) and to women with a taste for vintage fashion (“The Gothest Girl I Can.)

‘Cabin Fever’ covers a lot of territory but keeps the very natural, very organic. Lund uses his personal influences as guideposts for direction not marketing ideas of genre absolutes or popular trends. You couldn’t ask for a better representation of the richness and depth of contemporary roots music. If this was a just and fair world Lund would be drawing Kenny Chesney crowds in the United States. But it is not that world and, to our benefit, you can still afford to see him at a local venue with better seats and cheaper, better beer.

Take it from me, pick up the deluxe edition for excellent acoustic versions of all the songs.

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