Review by Roger Sharman
Taber, Alberta’s most famous son, Corb Lund, finally got to release his latest record, ‘Agricultural Tragic’, after an enforced delay due to the Global Pandemic. ‘Agricultural Tragic’ is the 10th Studio release in a career stretching back to 1995, when Corb formed his own band, The Corb Lund Band, who became Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans. Corb was also a founding member of The Smalls, who broke up in 2001.
Corb has a sharp sense of humour which is often demonstrated in his songwriting, his observations on everyday life, and the ironies of it, are often subjected to Corb’s poetic license, and his capturing of that moment is second to none. I mention the word poetic as that’s exactly what Corb is; a Poet.
‘Agricultural Tragic’ is the first long player since 2015’s ‘Things That Can’t be Undone’ that reached number eight on the Charts in Canada and featured collaborative writing with the likes of Evan Felker, Jason Eady and Willy Braun, and was produced by the legendary, Dave Cobb, who also played some guitar on that record.
The album kicks off with ‘90 Seconds of Your Time’, that has a real 60’s feel to it. One of the things that really struck me about this record was the diversity in sound from track to track, this record spans numerous genres, ranging from Country to Soul, Western to Rock n Roll, Blues to Indie, and the switch between genres is as seamless as a ‘90 Over’ old Cricket Ball.
‘Old Men’ takes the record off in the Outlaw direction, with that familiar chugging bass style and a blues/rock inspired guitar riff. There’s some pretty awesome slide played during the guitar solo, which is accompanied in part by some hot fiddle.
Fellow Canadian, Jaida Dreyer, lines up with Corb for some witty back and forth on the heavily Western laced track ‘I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey’ very much in the vein of John Prine’s ‘In Spite of Ourselves’ or Corb’s good friend, Hayes Carll’s ‘Another Like You’ (incidentally, Corb and Hayes recorded the incredibly wonderful ‘Bible on the Dash’ together back in 2013). In the song Lund and Dreyer, try to sell each other the virtues of Whiskey and Gin. I love the fact that they use the word ‘chagrin’ to rhyme with gin. Now I can’t recall anyone ever using that word in a song, someone must have, but not to my recollection.
There’s a further change of sound for ‘Raining Horses’, which has a more laid-back sound, it’s one of the more Americana sounding tracks on the album, and usually for someone who’s not a ‘Brit’, it’s a song about the weather. Jaida Dreyer gets credit for being co-writer on this song.
‘Oaklahomans!’ sees a real shift up in pace and an even more extreme change in sound. there are hints of The Ramones on this short sharp jolt, it’s only 1:53 in length, and is a tip of the hat to the Oakie Red Dirt scene.
‘Grizzly Bear Blues’ maintains that tempo, but that shifts throughout the track, starting off fast then slowing down in the chorus before picking it back up again, which I think is quite unusual, its normally the other way around. It’s a quick, quick, slow kind of track.
Back to a more Honky Tonk/Outlaw sound for the next track, ‘Dance with Your Spurs On’. Now most performers doing an outlaw sound have that rich baritone voice, which makes it a refreshing change to hear someone with less of a deep drawl sing this type of track.
‘Louis L’Amour’ is a Western Waltz, the only song of its kind on the record, once more showing Corb’s versatility. It’s one of my favourite tracks on the record. The mandolin and pedal steel combine with stunning effect on this track.
‘Never Not Had Horses’ is an ode to Corb’s mother, who has always had horses in her life and, as the song says, she’s rode her whole life and is at a loss now that she no longer has any. It’s about as sentimental as Corb gets on record, and very subtly has a dig at the disappearing Cowboy/ Western life that’s been hit hard by economic woes.
‘Ranchin’, Ridin’ Romance (Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad)’ takes us down the Rock ‘n’ Roll road. The standout element of this record for me is the outstanding guitar work of Grant ‘Demon’ Seimens, who plays an absolute blinder throughout the record and strongly deserves this shout out.
Further example of that is evident in ‘Rat Patrol’ which is another fast-paced Rock ‘n’ Roller. Again, for me the guitar dominates this song, much more so than any other instrument. There’s a pretty cool middle eight break on this, and Corb’s voice is really suited to this type of track.
The album is suitably rounded off with the rather wonderful ‘Tattoos Blues’, which is spoken word, pure poetry with a musical and sung chorus. This epitomises the intelligence of Lund’s writing. It’s a track I would have opened the album with to be honest rather than finishing it off with.
All in all, this is a highly enjoyable and fun record. I’m sure in the course of Corb’s history this won’t be his finest release, nevertheless it’s a strong release with plenty of highs and not any real lows. It’s a very solid record, which will further cement Corb’s place right alongside the other top Songwriters of the genre.