Twenty Five per cent of cowboys wear large hats, 25 per cent wear gloves, 75 per cent are blonde, 100 per cent need a haircut.
Courtesy Stony Plain Records

Music Interview: Country Outlaw at Large

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Corb Lund is a country boy at heart, true to his small town Taber, corn-lovin' roots. His latest album Hair in My Eyes like a Highland Steer has propelled him into the spotlight but even with exposure on Country Music Television and country radio stations across Canada, Lund and his Band of Hurtin' Albertans keep themselves attached to their roots with tales of Copenhagen, rodeos and ridin' in the foothills.

Rewind 10 years, and Lund was very non-country as bassist for Edmonton's indie legends the smalls. Seldom do conservative country and ultra-individualistic indie rock strike a balance but Lund has found just the right blend and says he's creating his own brand of country music a little edgier than the standard Kenny Chesney fare of the mainstream.

"In the indie world people reward you for being unusual and strange and quirky and that's kind of the opposite of the world which I'm brushing up against now," explains Lund of his genre shift. "In the country world you're rewarded for being the same as the other guy. It's the combination of the western roots and the indie rock irreverence--the two things together is what gives me my sound. The stuff that's on country radio these days is by and large pretty bland. Even if you're a country fan there's really not that much rural content in mainstream country. It's good if we can be the guys to maybe open the door just a little bit and show people there are other kinds of country music out there besides the slick kind."

With his shift into country music, Lund has gleaned inspiration from many a famous belt-buckle wearing Albertan. In doing so he's discovered the country community can be united by a love of Pilsner and Copenhagen. Lund describes this bond with a story involving Terri Clark at a Canadian Country Music Awards party after picking up two awards for Roots Artist/Group of the Year and Independent Group/Duo of the Year.

"I think she was kinda loosening up--she had a beer or something--and she was like, 'Do you have any chewing tobacco? I've been jonesing all day and somebody told me I should get some chewing tobacco from you,'" relates Lund. "I was like, 'yeah actually, here you go, and she took a big pinch of Copenhagen and started spitting in her beer bottle. I think that's pretty sexy."

Apart from sharing snuff with Clark, Lund collaborated on Hair in My Eyes with fellow cowboy and Canadian country legend Ian Tyson. Lund says the 71 year-old Alberta cowboy has become a friend and mentor since his departure from the smalls. Tyson made a similar switch from his Ian and Sylvia folk days of the '60s and '70s.

"He kind of came from a situation where he had a total different other style of music career going on," Lund says. "He left it for a while and then came back and did some western stuff. That's, in a sense, what I've done too from the smalls and now I'm doing something that's a little more country and western."

Lund rolls his rig through Calgary on Oct. 15 for the final stop on his cross-Canada tour before taking a much needed break to spend some more time on Tyson's ranch near Longview as well as his own west of Cardston. The break will give him the chance to practice up on the things cowboys do best.

"We sit around, drink beer and talk about women," says Lund with a laugh.