Corb Lund: Cabin Fever
The last decade has not been kind for country music. It is certain sales have been healthy, but there exists a crisis of identity among the genre’s key demographic. How does an artist balance the proud heritage implicit in country music’s subject content against the digital age where the majority of consumption takes place via modern technological methods? For instance, country music’s reliance on acoustic instrumentation is a direct response to rock n’ roll’s devilish electrification back in the sixties. While rock and hip hop have become increasingly urbanized, country music has no option but to tout the rural significance found in its very name. So these days where the only thing separating country from pop music is the inclusion of lap guitar/fiddle, self proclamation or a somewhat forced southern accent on every single track, where does one find legitimate country music?
For those who have grown bitter towards the industrialization of the genre, or those who’ve flirted with the music through more accessible alternative methods like Old Crow Medicine Show, Hayes Carll or Ryan Adams, the answer is Canadian Corb Lund. Yeah, I know, there’s a mother load of irony in searching for country music’s legitimacy in a Canadian musician, but perhaps now more than ever an outsider is in need to save its soul and perhaps even redeem country from the irrelevancy it seems largely bound for.
Justifying a monoculture is no small feat, but even on first listen Corb Lund illustrates how the genre can be done right while simultaneously paying homage to heritage. Whereas modern crooners go to lengths to mention Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings, Mr. Lund cuts a bit deeper into the genre’s history. Take a look at the track “Cows Around.” Western swing was developed by string musicians far removed from the jazz epicenter of the east coast back in the fourties and fifties. I’m sure there are still groups who specialize in the genre, but I can’t name any.
It seems the entirety of the album is devoted to separate long over-looked aspects of this increasingly monochromatic music. Another standout is album closer, “Pour ‘Em Kinda Strong.” Few have used the first person narrative for the cowboy context in the last thirty years. The reason it fell out of popularity was due to the oversaturation used by Cash and Willie Nelson, but neither of these legends ever wrote a song as biting or as darkly humourous as the death knell contained within this track.
Variety is the true strength on Cabin Fever. From the blues infused, “Dig Gravedigger,” to the comedic highway balladry of “Bible on the Dash” featuring a cameo by indie/country firecracker Hayes Carll, to the only slice of real pathos contained within the suicide bent “One Left in the Chamber,” the audience is left with a crisis of choice which at the same time prevents any ability to pigeon hole Mr. Lund.
Nashville take note, or better yet don’t. Corb Lund is a sleeper giant in a stifling atmosphere. For those obsessed with jumping a sound before its been over-done, and for those concerned with music that distorts the preconceived notions of any established format Cabin Fever will delight, entertain, and inspire, all while keeping your imported snake skins tapping. Do yourself a solid with this album, it won’t disappoint.
MP3: Corb Lund “One Left in the Chamber”
Buy: iTunes or