Published Nov 26, 2007Corb Lund could be forgiven for sticking to a winning formula. After all, his last two albums, 2002s Five Dollar Bill and 2005s Juno-winning Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer, both went gold, a rare achievement these days. The Albertan country-rock laureate is made of sterner stuff, however. On new disc Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier, he rides into darker and more lyrically adventurous terrain.
"Its not quite as much of a party record as the last two, he says. "They were a little more country and good-time-y, but my first two records were darker, so this is perhaps a throwback to my earlier stuff. Well see if it scares off the country fans or not. As the title indicates, Horse Soldier! explores themes of warfare and cavalry, but Lund denies consciously attempting to create a concept album. "It was totally accidental. I just write whatever interests me at the time and I happened to have a bunch of tunes themed that way. I had a couple of old ones too that were sitting on the backburner. They were just a bit heavy in content to fit into the last two records, but they seemed to work here. Corb laughingly describes himself as "a history nerd. I was a history major, and because of my background with the rural and equine stuff, the cavalry thing always interested me. Lunds lineage features over a century of cowboys, rodeo riders and ranchers, but he notes that, "I dont really have a military family. My grandfather sold a bunch of horses to the U.S. Army in the 40s, but thats as close as weve come to it. I always wanted to be a bronc rider rather than a soldier.
To record Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!, Corb reunited with ace Nashville producer/musician Harry Stinson. Lund terms him "one of the most influential forces on my career. We trust each other creatively, and hes like the king of arrangements. I write all my stuff, so after a year or two of banging 15 to 20 songs around, you get so close to them you cant really tell if there should be a guitar solo or whether the chorus should be slower. Harry helps come up with stuff that is subtle but that really ties off a song. The album begins with the rousing "I Wanna Be In The Cavalry, then ends (prior to the sombre "Taps) with a reprise of that song with a far bleaker feel and theme. "The way the record unfolds is rather like a million war movies youve seen before, says Lund. "The guy starts off all gung-ho and macho, then he gets to the war, sees his friends arm get blown off and he has no food and freezes in the winter and it doesnt seem so glamorous anymore. Corb stresses that "Ive never really been a political songwriter, and hes fully aware of the potential minefield hes traversing in covering the theme of wars, both past and present. "If you open your mouth, suddenly they put you in the far left or far right camp. My politics are a lot more complicated than that. My views dont necessary fit into typical pigeonholes.
He dedicates Horse Soldier! to "the memory and sacrifice of Cpl. Nathan Hornburg and all like him, a reference to a young Albertan killed in Afghanistan, and a relative of a Lund friend. Thankfully, he displays none of the nauseating sabre-rattling of the likes of Rick Hillier and Don Cherry over that controversial mission. "I dont understand how we can go into all the worlds backwaters and turn them into modern democracies overnight. I think Im turning into an isolationist!