Guns, Horses, Whiskey: Corb Lund's Western Music Crusade

Feb 14, 2019

Credit Courtesy photo

Corb Lund arrives in Wichita on Thursday, Feb. 14 for a performance at Wave. The Canadian musician has been releasing quality Western-based music since the mid-1990s. Along the way, he has earned acclaim for his deep-reaching narratives and humorous wordplay. Albums such as Five Dollar Bill, Cabin Fever and Things That Can't Be Undone remain among his most popular.

Interview Highlights

What were the origins of the No Rest For The West tour?

We're from out West in Canada. Alberta, just north of Montana. Very similar to Wyoming and Montana and Colorado. Lots of mountains and horses and cattle. We've been touring the States for a long time, but we've had a heck of a time finding a booking agent that will put us out West. They keep putting us in Appalachia. That's OK, but it's not really our scene because we sing about Western stuff. We finally found a booking agent that really understands the West, and we've been having a great time these six or eight months touring out there. We can't stop! [Laughs.] For Canadians coming down here, being from out West, the frontier area of Canada, we find that the people who really understand our music are the people in the western U.S.

I would imagine that Western music from the U.S. resonated with you. The land is largely the same, the experiences.

The culture in eastern Oregon is much different than the culture in Philadelphia. Alberta's much different than the rest of the country. It's probably the most ranch-y, most cattle-oriented area. My ancestors all came from Utah and Nevada 120 years ago. They ranched down there and then moved up north.

Was there a big scene for Western music in Alberta when you were starting out?

Not really. There's hardly anyone writing Western music anywhere, period. When I was growing up it was my family's music: Marty Robbins, Johnny Horton, Jerry Reed, Waylon Jennings. That Marty Robbins Gunfighter Ballads album is still my favorite album of all time. Garth [Brooks] and George [Strait] had a couple Western kind of songs on the radio 15, 20 years ago, but since then hardly anybody's on the radio singing anything that has anything to do with Western music. Not many of us left.

Ian Tyson, a good friend of mine, is from Canada. He's about 85 now, and he's probably one of the best-known Canadian cowboy writers.

I'm glad you mentioned Marty Robbins. He's also been a favorite of mine and that record is as well. I read a book about him some years ago and the author described how he heard this confluence of music that included Mexican music. What you really hear is that amalgamation of sounds you'd find in that part of the country.

I hear Mexican music in Marty's stuff. That really emotional, full-throated singing that he does? I've always imagined that growing up in Arizona, it must have been part of the influence on him. I've always been a sucker for story songs, too.

Was that important to you, early on, to write a good ballad?

Ballad in the sense of story song, yes. It's my ground zero.

You also inject your songs with a sense of humor. Not everybody's comfortable with that. I know that that can be hard to do. Some people aren't sure how to take humor in songs.

I can do that all day. I have to stop myself sometimes. I don't want people to think that I'm just a goofball. I can write fun, silly songs all day long. Often, what happens is that people will hear one of those songs and that's what catches their ear. Then they investigate our other stuff and get into the other, heavier stuff that I write. Roger Miller, Jerry Reed, they made livings off that stuff. I don't feel too bad about it! [Laughs.]

Roger Miller is, of course, famous for that line in "Dang Me" about "maple surple."

That's right.

That's a pretty admirable feat, to just go with that.

I'm cool with making up words like that. I've done a little bit of that myself. If a word doesn't quite rhyme, just bend it until it rhymes. Just make up your own word. Shakespeare apparently made up hundreds of words.

You're playing Wichita on Valentine's Day. When you have a show on a day like that, does that impact the kind of set you put together?

That's never occurred to me. Maybe it should have. I'm terminally non-romantic. I'll think about that. I'll try to inject some romance into the show. The thing is, I've got a lot dude fans because I sing about guns and horses and whiskey and card games, so it doesn't really lend itself to that.

Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

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