Corb Lund

Counterfeit Blues

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In his native Canada, Southern Alberta songwriter Corb Lund has a pair of Gold records and has won 12 Juno awards. On Counterfeit Blues, his eighth studio offering -- and third for New West -- Lund and his Hurtin' Albertans dig through their early Canadian catalog to offer a twist on the greatest-hits record. They re-recorded well-known cuts from 2002's Five Dollar Bill and 2006's Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer over two nights, absolutely live from the floor without overdubs at Memphis' Sun Studios. It's essentially a soundtrack to a CMT special that sought to flesh out Lund's desire to capture his brand of country in as raw and organic a form as possible. The band -- lead guitarist Grant Siemens, upright bassist Kurt Ciesla, and drummer Brady Valgardson -- deliver a kinetic, tightrope-without-a-net walking set where new versions stand in stark contrast to originals. Lund has written dozens of fine country and cowboy songs from the agrarian perspective he knows from experience. The title track is transformed into a distorted, chugging slide-guitar-rocking blues that evokes the greasy spirit of Memphis and discloses a debt to Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues." Siemens' slide-guitar wrangling bleeds right through the drums and bass, which in turn bleed into Lund's vocal. There's just enough slapback reverb on his voice to keep it above the din. The stomping delivery of "Good Copenhagen" suggests just how deep its outlaw country roots go, without posturing. "Big Butch Bass Bull Fiddle" weds rockabilly's immediacy to Western swing; it's driven by Ciesla's fingerpopping, syncopated slap-groove. The cut-time "Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer," with its spooky guitar reverb and Valgardson's skittering snare, walks a wily path between swaggering hardcore honky tonk and drunken square dance calling. Siemens' killer lap steel playing underscores "Little Foothills Heaven" and "(Gonna) Shine Up My Boots," while "Buckin' Horse Rider" is a slow cowboy waltz. "Truck Got Stuck" is a talking blues that simultaneously recalls the spirits of Woody Guthrie, Hank Snow, and Dave Dudley. Closer "Truth Comes Out" is high, wide, and lonesome. Rich in poetic detail and atmosphere, it feels like a storm coming in from the horizon. It presents the harsh realities of ranchers and farmers living on the Canadian prairies. For those who come to Lund's work through his previous New West dates, Counterfeit Blues is a rough-hewn, hardcore country revelation. For those who've followed him from the beginning, these versions argue that they were always meant to be presented in this way, and that they endure with deeper, wider meanings in this context.

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