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Lund brings old-time vibe to ‘old-time rodeo’

It was too tempting — Corb Lund had to plant his feet on the big X marking the spot where Elvis stood to record at Sun Studios in Memphis.

How could he resist?

“I’ve was a huge Elvis fan as a kid — everybody loves Elvis,” recalled the chuckling singer, who performs on Wednesday at the Ponoka Stampede.

Lund didn’t enter the legendary Memphis recording studio as a tourist — although the Alberta county singer admitted that alone would have been thrilling enough.

After all, the walls of the unassuming brick building are plastered with photographs of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and other artists who started recording there in the 1950s.

Lund actually came to Sun Studios with his band The Hurtin’ Albertans for a two-day recording session last fall. It was done at the request of CMT for the filming of a documentary called Memphis Sun, which was so popular with viewers that it was already aired several times by the station.

The audio track from the Sun recording sessions turned out to be so good that Lund decided to share it with fans in the form of a new CD called Counterfeit Blues.

The new release is full of Lund favourites, such as Five Dollar Bill, (Gonna) Shine Up my Boots, Truck Got Stuck and Little Foothills Heaven. But they sound more rock-a-billy or honky tonk than what many listeners will recognize from previous albums.

The 40-year-old explained his band members had to pick songs they were most familiar with, since they only had two days to record 14 tracks. “Of course, the stuff we’ve played thousands of times were the fan favourites, too — that’s why we played them the most,” said Lund.

The more vintage sound on the new album was achieved through some different instruments and sound production. The background fiddling heard on previously recorded versions of some songs is non-existent on Counterfeit Blues because there’s no actual fiddler in the band — and every single note had to be captured live off the floor in one or two takes.

Lund said the use of lap steel guitar and more echo helped intensify the old-fashioned vibe.

The low-tech recording process captured an energetic, raw country-rock crossover sound that the singer hopes fans will enjoy.

The album, which is available with or without the Memphis Sun DVD, was made without any modern “studio trickery,” added Lund. “There are some textures to it that are closer to a live show.”

Recording at the iconic Sun Studios — which is often pinpointed as the spot where country morphed into rock ’n’ roll — “was a really cool opportunity ... really fun for the band. They were really enthusiastic,” Lund recalled.

What’s turning his crank these days is the idea of performing at the Ponoka Stampede, which also has vintage appeal. “It’s kind of old fashioned, in that some events are a little different, and it’s been going on for a long time,” said Lund. He feels the “classic” old-time Central Alberta rodeo is less showy than the Calgary Stampede — but with no less thrills.

The singer, who hails from the Cardston area, used to ride steers as a kid, while his mom and dad were respectively barrel racing and steer wrestling champs. “My grandpas did rodeo, too,” he recalled.

Such myth-making aspects of western culture have been reoccurring themes in Lund’s music, and the Ponoka audience will hear a couple of yet unrecorded tunes he wrote for an album of new music expected in 2015.

One of them, a song called The S-Lazy-H, is about losing a ranch to a family squabble.

Lund said he’s heard a lot of stories about old homesteads getting torn up between new generations. “The one kid in the family wants to ranch, but he has to buy out the rest of the (siblings) in cash,” which requires selling some land.

“And in the end, there’s not enough left to make a living on.”

While his great-grandfather’s homestead still exists, he said different relatives have different corners of it. His uncle still runs cattle on the land, but Lund said it’s getting harder and harder making a go of cattle ranching these days. The homestead is mostly viewed as a “spiritual home” and family gathering place.

“Summer wouldn’t be summer,” he said, “without spending some time at the ranch,” which has pretty views of the Rocky Mountain foothills.

Lund has taken his story-songs about rural Alberta all across North America, playing for audiences in Wyoming as well as New York City.

He believes his “irreverent” take on country music plays just as well in both markets.

In fact, his last album Cabin Fever from 2012, has done exceptionally well in the U.S., surpassing sales of his previous releases.

But there’s something special about playing for Alberta crowds, added the singer, who will be doing just that this summer.

Besides catching him at the Ponoka Stampede, fans are also invited to Lund’s official CD release party at the Brooks Centennial Arena on Friday, June 20.

Tickets to Lund’s 6:30 p.m. show at the Ponoka Stampede on June 25, with the pro-rodeo, are $43 from Ticketmaster.

More information about the Brooks show is available on

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