Outside the lines


Sarah Hoyles speaks with Albertan musician Corb Lund

Corb Lund is a gambling man.

Instead of just sticking with the sure thing of his successful metal-punk band ‘the smalls’, Corb rolled the dice and headed for the back roads of country music.

He laughs about it now.

“It only cost me $100 bucks, so it wasn’t that big of a gamble,” he says. But with that small chunk of change, and his stories of growing up on the plains of Alberta, he was able to create the full-length album, Modern Pain in 1995. The country music side-project consisted of only 1,000 copies put out on cassette tape.

The game could have ended there, but with Corb Lund’s undeniable, but indescribable musical charm, he quickly made fans out of alt-country lovers, indie scensters and straight-shootin’ country music listeners until he got to where he is now.

These days, he and his band the Hurtin’ Albertans have been picking up some hardware along the way. Most recently they won the 2007 Canadian Country Music Association Award for Roots Group of the Year; Favourite Country Artist of the Year at the 2007 Canadian Independent Music Awards, as well as the Western Canadian Music Awards for Outstanding Independent Recording, Outstanding Roots Recording and Songwriter of the Year.

Their all-original tunes follow in the tradition of real-dealers like Neil Young, Hank Williams and Willie Nelson but still stay miles away from today’s squeaky-clean, pop-country crooners like Keith Urban or Carrie Underwood of American Idol fame.

But even Corb has a hard time describing the band’s sound.

“If you say ‘country’ people think of Tim McGraw,” he says. “So I say ‘old-fashioned country’ or ‘organic country with kind of a twist’. I sometimes reference Johnny Cash because his sound is the closest thing to ours that most people know.”

Other attempts at describing their sound have turned up words like “scruffy country”, “subversive country”, “non-toxic country”, or better yet, “western music with some hair on it.”

Corb and the band deliver hard-driving, foot-stomping, back porch tunes with a twinge of irony—and all the while they’re donning real cowboy hats.

As a good Albertan, Corb knows what he’s singing about when it comes to working on the rigs, trucking in the Rockies, switching to whiskey after beer, and everything-on-the-line poker games. (If you think I’m bluffing about the poker, listen to singer/songwriter Geoff Berner’s 2007 single called “Don’t play cards with Corby Lund.”)

According to Corb the band thought it was high time for them to venture out to Newfoundland, so for the release of their newest album, Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! they will make their first ever tour stop in St. John’s on Nov 21.

“I’ve been really wanting to play out in Newfoundland for years, but it’s outta the way, and as a musician you have got to add an extra leg to your tour,” he says.

And although St. John’s is fundamentally a rock n’ roll town, Corb isn’t cashing in his chips just yet.

“You can’t assume that just because people aren’t exposed to this stuff a lot around there, people aren’t going to get it,” he says.

Giddy up St. John’s.

Corb Lund & The Hurtin’ Albertans w/ Brian Byrne. Wednesday, November 21 at Club One. Tickets are available at The Sundance Saloon & Big Ben’s Churchill Square, or by phone at 1-800-874-1669. 19+ Doors open at 8pm