It’s been a long couple of pandemic years for touring artists.
But Corb Lund and his band the Hurtin’ Albertans hit the ground running in 2022, playing shows all over Canada and the U.S., including an appearance at the Country Music shrine Grand Ole Opry.
Lund has another lengthy tour ahead of him, including a solo acoustic stop at Cranbrook’s Key City Theatre, September 21, where he enjoys a great popularity whenever he plays here — a kind of favoured neighbour status, coming from Southern Alberta and all. But it’s not just B.C. where he’s warmly welcomed. Lund found enthusiastic crowds waiting for him after his two year absence, wherever he’s played.
“It’s been really good — especially in the States,” Lund told the Townsman about getting back out there after the years of lockdown. “I thought we’d maybe have to build it up again, but we had our best American tour yet this year. We’re going back in October.
“We put a record out in 2020, ‘Agricultural Tragic’ — I thought it might die on the vine, but everybody knew the songs, so I guess they’d been listening to it in quarantine.”
Lunds brings a rocking- alt-country sensibility to his shows with the Hurtin’ Albertans. His foray into southeast B.C. this fall will be a solo affair, him and his guitar on stage. A change of pace he’s looking forward to.
“I do it periodically. I get to flex a different muscle than usual. I love playing with my band, but I also love playing solo shows. I get to talk a little more. I play some of the same songs, but a little differently sometimes, and I play a lot of songs I don’t play with the band.
“It’s a good way to introduce new songs. It’s a much different repertoire and set list than my set list. Also, I like to explain where the songs came from, and what I meant by this and what I meant by that, taking requests … I really like it.
“You can go really different avenues with the songs choices, and I like the idea the idea that I can talk more. It’s hard to talk too much with the band — the guys standing around waiting. It’s fun to be able to tell stories and BS a little more, explain things.”
Lund has played the Key City Theatre before, both solo and with his band. He has family in Cranbrook, and himself is a popular draw every time he comes to town.
He proved to be a draw at another theatre this year. He made an appearance at Country Music’s most legendary shrine, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, in early April of this year.
“We were supposed to do it a couple of years ago, and then Covid messed it up,” he said. “But they had us back as soon as they could make it happen.”
He played three songs, two of them with the Opry band.
“It was pretty magical. I think my style works well for that format — it’s story songs and old school country. People really liked it.”
Lund said his career has never been made up of big moments —“it’s always been a slow build.
“I’ve always been on the fringes, and that’s what I like, because I do what I want and sing what I want, and no one’s ever told me what to do musically,” Lund continued. “I’ve never had one big break that shot me into stardom. Any success I’ve had in my career has been a series of small fractures along the way — a steady climb.
“If I was 23, and called to do the Opry, I’d be like, ‘Oh my God!’ But it kind of snuck up on me, because it was just another thing on the itinerary. And then, when I actually did it, it was really moving. And that was one of the moments.
“It kind of caught me by surprise, when I was actually there singing on that stage it was really moving.”
Lund may be on the fringes, but the singer-songwriter from Taber, Alberta, has certainly had a long and storied career in music, starting with the Smalls, the rock band from Edmonton he help found in 1989. Moving into Country with the Corb Lund Band, now the Hurtin’ Albertans, he has released nine albums, three of them certified gold, and won numerous awards in different genres in Canada and the U.S.
Coming on the heels of 2020’s “Agricultural Tragic,” Lund released a new album earlier this year, a pet project of covers — “Songs My Friends Wrote.” The record is a 10-song set featuring Lund putting his spin on some of his favourite songs written by close friends and world-class songwriters such as Hayes Carll, Todd Snider, Ian Tyson, and more.
“A lot of their songs I’d already been playing with my band for years,” Lund said. “They’re all friends of mine. It’s pretty cool because I’ve been threatening to make that record for years. It’s me and my band interpreting songs that all those songwriters — all buddies of mine — had written. I got to channel some of their best songs through my band’s playing.
“I chose more obscure album tracks that I like — they weren’t necessarily their hits.”
He says he did the record as a fun project, “but it seems to have really taken off. People really like it.”
As well as being friends of his, the artists are also influences on his own writing and playing.
“Some on the list are more well known than me and some are less well known. Ian Tyson, Tom Russell are pretty huge. Some are less well known in the States — Mike Plume, Geoff Berner …”
And Lund is already looking forward to a Volume 2 and Volume 3.
“I feel bad that there weren’t any gals on the record, because I’ve plenty of friends that are women that write too. It just didn’t work out this time. But I got a couple more volumes lined up for the next few years.
“It’s much easier to make records when you don’t have to write the songs.
Lund added that, hopefully, he’ll also be looking to put out an album of new material next year.
Corb Lund plays the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook on Wednesday, September 21.