Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Albums That Defined My Musical Tastes – Corb Lund's "Five Dollar Bill"

I’ve never much liked country music. At all really. And it wasn’t for lack of exposure – as a kid there was plenty of country music around. My folks played an album by Alabama a lot, plus one by the Charlie Daniels Band with that crazy fiddle tune "The Devil Went Down to Georgia". And of course Kenny Rogers. And there might have been a bit of Willie Nelson now and again. But they weren’t big country music fans. As a kid I spent a lot of time in my parents’ home town of Foam Lake (population 1,123), where you’d think country music must run through their veins. But I heard a lot more Kiss, AC/DC, and April Wine than country back then, coming from the open truck windows of the vehicles cruising up and down Main Street.

But then one day in 2002 my brother Curt whipped out this cd and said I just had to listen to it. He said it was country, and the guys’s name was Corb Lund. I eyed him suspiciously, because I knew he liked country even less than me. Then I heard the opening lyrics, “I wrote my new song on a five dollar bill…” and heard the tale of an Albertan bootlegger running whisky across the border to the US, where he stole five bucks from a good ole boy who later stole it back. At first I wasn’t sure. Then something clicked. And I had found the first country album I liked, and would later come to love.

I’m still not entirely sure what I like about Corb Lund’s music. The lyrics are fantastic, rich with detail, clever, and each song tells a story. A real story, or at least that’s how it feels. Plus the music is good, with some fine guitar work and ripping stand-up bass. It could be his voice too. He sounds like a kid I went to Sunday school with back in Foam Lake. Actually he reminds me of everybody I went to Sunday school with in Foam Lake. Genuine. A bit guarded. Resilient. The capacity for craziness.

Where did my explorations of the country genre go from here? Not very far. I like some Johnny Cash stuff, but especially that album where he did a bunch of covers, including “Rusty Cage” by Soundgarden which was a masterpiece. And Sturgill Simpson, who started out as a country guy but it was all a ploy because deep down he’s no country guy at all – he’s a progressive rock, musical explorer and made the best album of 2019 – “Sound & Fury”, which followed the best album of 2016 – “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth”.

What I’ve learned from Corb Lund is that you may not like a genre of music, but if you wait awhile the genre might change to better suit your tastes. Or what’s more likely, is that you might change to better suit the genre.

In any case, you know when you hear good music, genre be damned.

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