It only takes one listen to any Corb Lund album to know the guy is witty and whip-smart. The salty Albertan who studied jazz in Edmonton before joining metal band the Smalls, also has a good sense of history and a strong respect for the land and people who work it, whether ranchers, farmers, or roughnecks on a drilling rig.
Lund's latest album on New West, Cabin Fever, hit the streets August 14 and has gotten rave reviews in Washington Post and other national publications. Meanwhile, it has raced up the charts to become the No. 1 record in Canada. No, not the No. 1 Americana record, the No. 1 record period.
Featuring a funny co-write with Hayes Carll and produced by Steve Christensen and John Evans, the album actually has plenty of Houston connections even though it was recorded in Edmonton.
With a huge number of Canadians residing in Houston due to their connection to the oil and gas business, Lund's Houston gigs may be the largest recurring gatherings of beer-guzzling Canucks in the area. He steps out of the Mucky Duck into the rowdier confines of the Firehouse Saloon for his first Houston gig in a while.
We caught up with him over the phone last week at the AMA convention in Nashville.
Rocks Off: You're in Nashville for the AMAs?
Corb Lund: Yeah, we've got one showcase, then we're back on the road immediately.
RO: Are you up for any awards this time around?
CL: No, we haven't had a record out in three years, so we aren't nominated for anything this time. Maybe next year. Maybe next year I can win the oldest new artist award. We' ve got seven records out, but we seem to keep getting viewed in a lot of different circles as something new.
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RO: Well, the new record certainly seems to be doing well. Has it done better sales-wise than the previous New West releases?
CL: Definitely. It seems like our first two New West albums were just sort of like calling cards in the States. They didn't sell the way this one has.
RO: Being from the States, it's hard to fathom an album like yours being the top seller in Canada.
CL: I know, it's crazy, right? Justin Beiber is probably scratching his head.
RO: Why do you think that is? I mean, there's no way Hayes Carll's record could ever go to No. 1 in the mainstream charts here.
CL: We actually get some mainstream commercial airplay with certain songs, and that is a real boost as far as exposure. And, of course, the playing field is not nearly as big in Canada.
RO: When I heard the album, I thought you might have a hit single with "Bible on the Dash." Did you release it as a single?
CL: You know, I don't even know what a single is anymore. The disc jockeys who play our kind of stuff don't seem to be singles-oriented. They listen to an album and play the tracks that strike them. We did put out an official video for "Gettin' Down on the Mountain" and it's gotten some traction in certain places and has probably helped raise this album's visibility a bit.
But I was never really certain how "Bible on the Dash" would play. I don't want fundamentalists picketing my shows, you know. Maybe Hayes and I should do some kind of ironic video for it.
RO: Well, Hayes's song "She Left Me For Jesus" did very well, got AMA song of the year etc.
CL: Yeah, but you know Hayes was playing that song in Washington, D.C. and some Jewish lobbyist got in his face. Not everyone gets that you're singing from the point of view of a character who is a dolt. That's like hating an author because he has a character in a novel who is bad or is evil. Stupid, really, but stupid happens. All the time.
RO: This album has a different feel than the previous records. It's looser, less polished, has some raw to it.
CL: You know, I've always liked those records where say Johnny Cash sings out of key or something is slightly out of tune. But when you get in there doing your own record, it's hard to make yourself stop fixing every little thing you hear. We made a conscious decision this time not to sand off all the rough edges. And I think there's some charm in that.
RO: Do you still have the same lineup live?
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CL: Yeah, same guys. We've played thousands of gigs together now, so that was another thing I wanted to do on this album, show how strong all those guys are. We did most of this live, just played it rather than building it layer upon layer.
RO: You're very well known in Canada, you've gotten some notice in Nashville, and you're a tall, rugged looking guy who fits the country singer image. Has it ever entered your mind to shoot for the mainstream country thing?
CL: [laughs] I'm not bald -- at least not yet -- but I guess I've already established the hat thing. But to answer your question: no.
9 p.m. Friday at the Firehouse Saloon, 5930 SW Fwy., www.firehousesaloon.com.