Since releasing 2015's Dave Cobb-produced Things That Can’t Be Undone, Alberta's Corb Lund has been touring relentlessly and doing charity work. Preparing to write and record a new set of originals, the singer/songwriter, with his Hurtin' Albertans in tow, issued the eight-track Cover Your Tracks EP, co-produced with John Evans. It's a divergence for Lund, whose Americana recordings have made him one of North America's most acclaimed roots artists. He chose these tunes from his band's live set and/or their honored places in his life. While most are readily recognizable by their original artists, Lund infuses most of them with fresh energy; he also enlists of a couple of guests to assist.
One example is his rockabilly-infused reading of AC/DC's "Ride On," with an appearance by Canadian cowboy songwriter and national treasure Ian Tyson. Hayes Carll drops in for another duet on a strutting honky tonk & roll version of Shel Silverstein's "Cover of the Rolling Stone," immortalized by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show. Lund doesn’t totally leave out the influence of the West, either. His modern reading of Marty Robbins' murder ballad "They're Hanging Me Tonight" is steeped in sorrow and regret; its high lonesome is informed by the wide-open landscape of the prairie and its historically harsh survival code. Lee Hazelwood's Nancy Sinatra vehicle "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" has been covered far too often. It may be important to Lund, but it doesn't add much here. The squalling electric guitars in "Outlaw Man" pay heed to the Eagles' single from Desperado, and its songwriter, David Blue (a late compatriot of Bob Dylan's). The gorgeous acoustically rendered version of "Seven Spanish Angels" here -- inspired by a 1984 duet between Ray Charles and Willie Nelson -- is one of the set's gems; it's saturated in soulful dignity. Lund's reading of Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" is a tribute to an artist he admires, but is far too reverential. The closer, a rendition of Dylan's prison ballad "I Shall Be Released" is an homage to the Band's (almost all Canadians) Music from Big Pink version with gloriously stacked vocal harmonies and clipped, reverbed electric guitars. Cover Your Tracks is fun, but its appeal will reside with Lund's fans as a stopgap rather than as a recording that warrants repeated listening.