Corb Lund & The Hurtin Albertans

Pat Hill

Canadian singer-songwriter Corb Lund will be breezing into Bozeman’s Filling Station on Nov. 21 to play one more show before settling in at home for a few months to write some new tunes.

“I’m excited for the show,” Lund said in an October telephone interview. “I like that place [the Filling Station]. And I really feel at home in Montana, so I think it’s great.” It’s appropriate that Lund would finish up a busy 2014 touring schedule in the Treasure State. Montana has always been a part of the musician’s life. He was born in the small town of Taber in Southern Alberta, and grew up on the family’s ranch near Waterton Park (the Canadian portion of Glacier National Park).
“Our ranch is five miles from the (Montana border),” Lund said. “I spent a lot of time in Montana growing up.” He said that many of those trips over the border to Big Sky Country involved life on the ranch, a lifestyle with deep family roots. Lund is a fourth-generation cowboy. He even started hitting the rodeo circuit before he was a teenager, winning his first trophy steer-riding when he was 11 years old. And that ranching and rodeo-cowboy lifestyle Lund grew up with was accompanied by country-western music.

“I was obsessed with Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Songs and Trail Ballads (Columbia Records, 1959),” he said of his early exposure to country music. “Yeah. That’s my favorite record still. My dad had it, and played it all the time. And my grandfathers, both ranchers in Southern Alberta, they’d also sing the old songs.” Those old songs included The Strawberry Roan, a traditional tune featured on that favorite Marty Robbins’ album, the words to which Lund learned at an early age from his paternal grandfather. That musical backdrop to his cowboy life eventually took priority in Lund’s life, and he left the ranch to study music at Grant MacEwan College in Edmunton, Alberta.

By the end of the 1980s, Lund was playing bass guitar and writing songs in the Canadian Indie rock band, the Smalls. Lund and the three members of the band had met at Grant MacEwan as students, and the Smalls, whose sound ran the gamut from hardcore punk and speed metal to country and jazz, went on to be one of the most prominent bands coming out of Alberta in the early 1990s. In 1995, the ranch kid-turned-rocker founded the Corb Lund Band. He handled vocals and played lead guitar in the group, whose first release in ‘95 became an alternative country classic. Lund turned his attention to the Corb Lund Band exclusively when the Smalls broke up in 2001.

In 2005, the Corb Lund Band morphed into Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans. The band’s alternative country approach with a flair had already caught on, and their first release, Hair in My Eyes like a Highland Steer (Stony Plain Records, 2005), won the band the Canadian Juno award for roots and traditional album of the year. The band’s somewhat quirky approach to country music wows concert crowds, and the albums and the hits just keep coming. Counterfeit Blues, the band’s latest recording, was just released this summer, and an Americana Christmas album produced by New West Records, featuring Lund and other notables, such as Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris, went on sale in October.

“I’ve got one foot in old-fashioned cowboy music,” Lund told Country Music Television, “but I treat it with some abandon and irreverence. The reality is that we don’t live in that world anymore--yet the cowboys were kind of punk rockers in their day. My whole life is sort of a dichotomy between being a cowboy kid and living in the city. I guess that informs my music, too.” And Lund’s music seems to inform most everyone who comes into contact with it. Folks come away from his shows with smiles on their faces, and often a new Corb CD in their possession. The band seems to have become a mainstay at the popular Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs, and Lund told the crowd gathered there in July that the event is one of his favorite festivals.

“The vibe is just really good there,” he said. “And it’s run very well...Sarah Calhoun [owner of Red Ants Pants] is awesome. It’s been really fun playing it every time. I hope we get to play again there in 2015.” Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans do keep busy in the summer, however: after playing the Red Ants Pants festival on July 27, the band hurried back up to Edmonton, where July 28 was declared Corb Lund Day by the city’s Mayor. July 28 will forever be known as Corb Lund Day in Edmonton, the Mayor added.

If you live in Bozeman, Friday, Nov. 21, is your chance to see Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans. Bozeman’s own Tom Cook Band will get the ball rolling for the Nov. 21 show, and tickets are on sale at Cactus Records in downtown Bozeman. Missoulians can also catch Corb at the Top Hat on Nov. 20.

“That’s our last run before we go into hibernation and make a new record, actually,” Lund said. “I’m going to hole up in my cabin and write, and we’ll record in March or April. I’ve already written a few new tunes. The Filler show will be a good chance to preview a bit of new material, and we’ll also play some old favorites, and take requests. I’m looking forward to it as always.”    

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Pat Hill

Pat Hill is a freelance writer in Bozeman. A native Montanan and former advisor to Montana State University’s Exponent newspaper, Pat has been writing about the history and politics of the Treasure State for nearly three decades.

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