Friday wraps up a good concert year for me. These years happen rarely; the last one was 2008, when I got to see George Jones, Jim White, Pete Seeger, NKOTB, and even the Yoshida Brothers (okay, that was a bit of a weird year). Corb Lund is playing the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto as part of his North American Cabin Fever tour, and it’s a show to look forward to. Here are some reasons you might want to head out to his concerts:
1. He’s a damn good songwriter.
You know how we’re all still googly-eyed over Hank Williams, 60 years after his death? Some might call him the greatest songwriter of the 20th century; certainly one of the greatest country songwriters. Now, I’m not advocating for replacing Hank, but how about we start thinking about who will take the title for the 21st century? My bet is on Corb. Just as Hank was writing the stories of the underdog, the heartbroken, the really heartbroken, all with a dash of humour and winkin’ and nudgin’, Corb is doing the same for us urban, wanting to be rural, drowning in technology, nostalgic for the farm, politically astute folks. He knows what we want to hear and he does it, but it never feels like pandering. He’s a songwriter who’s always trying to tell his own truth.
Lines like: “Yeah, he ain’t bothered by corpses/Hell, he’ll plant stiffs all day/ See, he’s on some kinda piecework deal/ He get paid by the grave” in “Dig Gravedigger Dig”,
“Now don’t get smart with me boy, why you doin’ 95?
My foot is heavy with redemption, I’m just blessed to be alive
I oughta pull you outta there and beat you black and blue
I place my hand up on the good book and said ‘what would Jesus do?’”
in “Bible on the Dash” are sharp, funny, rhythmically complex, and once in there, never leave your head.
If the more serious content of “Gettin’ Down on the Mountain” or his suicide ballad, “One Left in the Chamber” get you down, he always throws a dash of humour into his drinking songs, or a list of cattle breeds in “Cows Around”. Something for everyone.
2. He’s from Alberta.
It makes me super proud that somebody from Alberta became this successful and didn’t have to go all Nashville to do it. Plus, he still lives there.
3. He tells you a lot, but not everything.
Curious about his songs? He’s created a series called “What That Song Means Now”, great for aspiring songwriters, budding guitarists, or rabid fans. Or, regular fans. He tells you how he came up with them, how to play them, what the lyrics mean, and he even throws in a bit about how his day is going. Corb is good at making fans feel like they’re his buddies.
But he doesn’t go overboard, which leaves a nice element of mystery in this ridiculous new world of oversharing. Check out the explanation of “September”, where he diplomatically weaves his way through the difficult content:
4. He’s smart.
I’ve said this before. Gone are the days where a country singer is merely a transplanted rural simpleton trying to tell urbanites why livin’ in the country is da bomb. There are few excuses for ignorance about politics, current events, awareness of different perspectives these days, and country music’s history doesn’t relieve it from some social responsibility now. And I don’t mean the token “He really shouldn’t be hitting her” message of Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” or Garth Brooks’s “The Thunder Rolls”, which are, fair enough, good songs. But country’s got to get with the times and address contemporary issues, and Corb is taking the lead.
5. He’s going everywhere.
You can’t use the excuse that he’s “too far away” – he’s coming to your area, especially if you live in Canada. Turn off The Walking Dead (it’s the same stupid plot every week; zombies slobber and slowly walk into some unfortunate end), get off your ass, and go.
Besides, he does the zombie thing well:
6. Corb is going to put on a good show.
My expectations are high, I suppose, after seeing Bruce Springsteen, Loretta Lynn, Rush, and Chris Isaak in the last two months. Nothing beats the moment Rush emerged onstage, or the gruelling four hours of Bruce, or, well, everything about Chris Isaak – the mirrored suits, the charming jokes, the band (my god, that band!), the climbing through the audience while he’s singing to fulfill a few ladies’ lifelong fantasies (though he chose the wrong balcony). Or, Corb might beat them all. No pressure, Corb.
Really, I’ve seen enough shows, and gotten old and grumbly enough, to be pissed when an artist doesn’t put out some effort and entertain me. I used to wonder at that response in the older guys I interviewed about music, and now I’m starting to get it. And when you know the band works hard like Corb’s does, and they’re determined to have a good time at every show, and they play better than pretty much anyone you’ve seen in the last couple years, then you know you’ve spent your money well.
So gather up your best friend’s dad, your husband, and three of your girlfriends, or some such combination, and go see Corb Lund this winter.