Maybe you caught them as the bar band in the B-horror flick, Slither. Or maybe you have an unnatural interest in the Canadian Country Music Association, which has named them Best Roots Artist for five years running. More likely, you belong to the vast majority of folks this side of the border who've never heard of Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans.
All that could change soon: Corb and company just signed with New West Records, whose eclectic roster (Ray Davies, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle) makes it the perfect vehicle for introducing Lund's intelligent indie-twang to the U.S. of A.
From Lund's perspective, Canadian country isn't all that different from its southern counterpart: "We've got our crop of wannabe, vanilla-flavored Nashville guys, and we've also got our underground scene," says Lund, who's actually playing nine Colorado dates on this tour.
"Our audience is about half independent, underground, aging punk-rock people, and the other half are straight country fans, which is a strange mix. It's like there's a mainstream scene and an underground scene, and we're part of the latter."
While most of Lund's music won't win over Kenny Chesney and Sugarland fans, tracks like "The Truck Got Stuck" and "(Gonna) Shine Up My Boots" are bound to put a smile on the face of any halfway-sentient good ol' boy. That said, Lund's most recent album, Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!, is something of a departure, given its minor-key string arrangements, military-tinged subject matter and noticeably weird title.
In fact, the album gets downright dark and epic on "Student Visas," the tale of a former freedom fighter that puts the Contra back in country: "There ain't no fun in killin' folk / And I don't wanna do no more," intones Lund in the final chorus. "But if they back me in the corner / They'll be dead before they hit the floor."
"That was pretty much the verbatim retelling of a story a guy told me in Alabama," says Lund. "I was just drinking beer with this guy at a show; he was about mid-30s and had been down in Nicaragua, and his back was all screwed up, and his mind was all screwed up, too. Well, I'm not sure his mind was screwed up, but he was definitely conflicted, with some of the stuff he'd seen. So I didn't really have to make much up for that one."
Coming from three generations of rodeo riders he rode steer until he "discovered Led Zeppelin at the age of 15 and my interest waned" Lund spent 10 years with an Edmonton punk-metal band called the Smalls before returning to the country music he grew up with. He also minored in history at the University of Alberta, and insists the album's themes come from reading military history rather than his own reading of contemporary events.
That said, Lund says his opinion of our escapades in Iraq is the same as it was when he played Seattle the night the invasion began.
"Yeah, there's been so much debate about which politician thought it was a good idea and which one didn't," says Lund.
"But I don't know I'm just a dumb-ass singer, and it seemed like bullshit to me from the very start."