THE REINS

Canadian singer-songwriter Corb Lund set about working Mon his eighth studio album, he was determined to keep pushing himself, and his band, the Hurtin’ Albertans, to achieve their best production yet. In order to make sure this became a reality, he enlisted the talent of an energetic producer, known for his love of spontaneity and challenging musicians.

For Alberta-based Lund, it was exactly what he was after, as he decided to approach the ambitious new recording, THINGS THAT CAN’T BE UNDONE, with a less controlled atmosphere.

“I’m always trying to stave off boredom,” says Lund. “It’s record number eight, and I used to be more of a control freak. I’d want to play the guitar, sing the song or write the song, or help produce the record, but now I think I’ve matured a little bit and am more clear about it and welcome outside help.

“I’ve reached a point where I’ve very much let go of the reins with the band and production and that brings a fresher element. I would like to think it’s a healthy balance of pushing our stylistic boundaries and pushing our audience’s ears, but keeping it familiar enough so that they’re not totally alienated. I think I’ve trained them by now to expect different things.”

Producer Dave Cobb, who has worked with the likes of Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton, was the man for the job, and soon proved to be invaluable as he worked with the team in Nashville.

“We met at exactly the right time, because I was in a mental frame work to let go of control, and he’s the kind of producer who can jump right in. He brought a lot of spontaneity, he’s a very in-the-moment kind of a producer, very organic and retro and headstrong. I find that as soon as you get into a pattern, it’s never good. It’s always good to be tweaking the formula because then you get different ideas.”

Lund’s band of 12 years, the Hurtin Albertans, made up of Grant Siemens (electric guitar and lap steel), Kurt Ciesla (bass) and Brady Valgardson (drums) were also thrilled with the newfound opportunities loss, but I’m cool with that,” he said. “Subconsciously, I didn’t set out to do that, but when you’re writing everything you’re going through, that comes out.”

Sometimes the decisions to include personal tracks were difficult though, especially the heartbreaking song, Sunbeam, which was written for his niece.

“When I wrote that song I didn’t expect for it to be used on the record, I wrote it for the family,” he said. “I hadn’t even considered it would be a song for release, and then I played it for the band one day and we recorded it. Once you get to the point of playing them live and you’ve rehearsed them so many times and recorded them, it becomes part of the show. Occasionally you re-live the emotion, but it’s not like you’re reliving it every time you sing it.

“It’s funny because the record isn’t even out yet, but we’ve played that song and every single time there’s people who come up to me and are quite emotional. It’s really tricky with those kind of songs, because when you write really personal stuff, it’s a lot more difficult because there’s a really fine line between something that sounds emotionally beautiful, and something that is cheesy and cornball, and with a record, you never really know.”

“My guitar player was freer to do what he wanted. Between him and Dave they came up with some sounds that probably wouldn’t normally have made it onto the record. In terms of making a unique record, something different, we achieved that for sure, but on the oth er hand, th e way th at we ran into it, it was so unpredictable that there was no way for me to judge exactly what the finished product was going to be.

“We deliberately went into it in a much less prepared state. Normally what happens is, I get the band together and we work on arrangements ahead of time, but we were told Dave likes to have the band unfamiliar with the songs, so it’s spontaneous and a lot more riskier.”

Over a two week period in April, they worked together in Cobb’s studio and constructed song after song, often breaking them down and rebuilding each one as they went. The end product is a compilation of ten songs that, in keeping with its timeless feel, will be available digitally, on CD, 180-gram vinyl and as a deluxe CD and DVD.

The theme of loss is obvious throughout this release, which Lund says will be clear to fans who are used to his more up-beat recordings. The heavier subject matter, and touching lyrical tributes, reflects a tough few years for the artist, who recently suffered the loss of his father, grandmother and young niece.

“Normally there are more lighthearted, fun songs and this one’s a little darker … and has a lot more songs about Another song from the new release that gained attention over the festival season, was Weight Of The Gun, which Lund describes as a “Louis L’Amour style western tale crossed with Motown.”

“It’s an unusual song for me; the lyrical content is right up my alley, but the style of the song is a little bit different. The guys in my group are quite versatile so it has a quasi-soul feel going on there. Usually 95% of the time, I write a song on the acoustic guitar and we work on an arrangement and a style for it, but this one it was a riff the band has been generating for years, so we came up with the chord music for it.”

Lund says that recording in Nashville was a matter of convenience, rather than a need to be at the home of country music, despite recording four albums there in the past: “In this day and age especially, if you have a talented producer and the right equipment, you can record anywhere – you can record in a barn if you want to.”

Instead, it’s his own heritage that provides him with the most inspiration, as he draws on tales and anecdotes that he uses in his storytelling.

“My family are all cattle ranchers. Real cowboys and stuff, living in the American and Canadian west for 140 years, so it’s all very Western and rural. It’s all pretty natural for me. I was born and raised in Southern Alberta, about an hour from the mountains. Maverick.

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