ALBUMS: Agriculture and Morality

On his new album, Corb Lund surveys Heartland happenstance with honesty and integrity 

Corb Lund (Art: Ron Hart)

Artist: Corb Lund

Album: Agricultural Tragic

Label: New West

★★★★ (4/5 stars)


Corb Lund is what one would call an authentic cowboy troubadour, an astute representative of the North Americana heartland.

Hailing from a family of Canadian ranchers and rodeo performers based in his native Alberta, he embraces his Western heritage through a birthright that stretches back several generations. 

In fact, few other artists can claim such absolute authenticity. Ian Tyson, Red Steagall, Tom Russell, Don Edwards, and Michael Martin Murphy are among the more obvious examples of  those that sing from a personal perspective, making the music more than a mantra but rather an absolute essential additive as far as their cultural connection is concerned. 

The follow up to his Cover Your Tracks EP, a collection of covers by such disparate artists as AC/DC, Nancy Sinatra, Billy Joel, Marty Robbins, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles and Dr. Hook, Agricultural Tragic marks Lund’s first new album of original material since 2015’s Things That Can’t Be Undone. The recipient of multiple CCMA, Juno, and international award nominations and wins, he’s been a steady presence on the Canadian and Americana charts for the better part of the past decade. 

Corb Lund Agricultural Tragic, New West 2020

That said, lest anyone think his homegrown tendencies might define him as some sort of laidback country crooner, the new album dismisses that notion assuredly from the start. Opening track “90 Seconds of Your Time” establishes his assertive stance. “Old Men” is driven and defiant, even as it pays homage to his learned forebears. The big beat of “Rat Patrol” sounds like an archival rocker from the get-go. On the other hand, “I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey,” a duet with Jaida Dreyer accentuated by what sounds like a train whistle’s refrain, recalls Johnny and June given its back and forth exchange about the appeal of their favorite adult beverages. 

Of course, Lund’s western roots also show up throughout, as evidenced by the rollicking examples offered by “Raining Horses,” “Never Not Had Horses,” “Ranchin’, Ridin’, Romance (Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad),” and “Dance With Your Spurs On.” Lund never falls prey to false sentimentality or dallies in obsequious devotion. The songs are generally tough, tenacious and informed by both confidence and credibility. Yet, he isn’t adverse to sharing the fact that he’s the real deal, and though he may be a gritty rock and roller at heart (the song “Grizzly Bear Blues” and “Tattoo Blues” make that fact all too obvious), his upbeat attitude is always at the fore.

Ultimately, Agricultural Tragic maintains its insurgent stance throughout, and the juxtaposition of attitude and honesty serves him well. Indeed, Lund’s homespun appeal is evident in every note and nuance. 

 

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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