Listening to Tim Hus’s latest album, Hockeytown, is like taking a colourful bus ride across Canada.
The CD is crammed with evocative and humourous references to assorted national characters — from stoic Picture Butte bronc riders to sand-bagging Manitobans, stalwart Hamilton steel workers, and beer-swilling bush-wackers who hunt for the Sasquatch and find the Ogopogo by mistake.
If all the eccentric Canadiana references bring Stompin’ Tom Connors to mind, it’s no accident.
The Calgary-based cowboy singer, who performs on Thursday at The Matchbox in Red Deer, admitted “I wrote most of these songs while I was on tour in Eastern Canada with (Connors) because he’s of the mind that Canada has a bit of a lack of identity.”
Since this country never had to fight for its independence, “Stompin’ Tom thinks there’s a cultural crisis of confidence . . . (and) what we younger musicians must do is to give a voice to the Canadian people,” said Hus, who was happy to oblige his friend by writing about unique aspects of his native land.
Occasionally while the 32-year-old is on tour, there isn’t much to do other than to write music. For instance, Hus arrived for a concert in Morris, Man., one spring only to discover the hall he was supposed to be playing in was under water.
“Since there was no show, I sat down and wrote a song,” he recalled. It became Red River Flood, with the chorus “we’re standing our ground in the Manitoba mud.”
At some point while touring in Southern Ontario, Hus realized that, while plenty of songs have been written about the U.S. steel town of Pittsburgh, Canada’s equivalent has remained relatively unsung. He rectified this with the tune Hamilton Steel, which points out that the Stelco city has been pouring metal since 1861.
Meanwhile, his Prairies-inspired Saskatchewan Son-of-a-Gun is “about people who drink Pilsner beer, go curling and hunt white-tailed buck,” he said, with a laugh.
“It’s a rah-rah anthem for all Saskatchewan people — sort of a Saskatchewan version of Hurtin’ Albertans,” the tune he wrote with Corb Lund.
No matter where people live in this diverse land, Hus believes millions will be able to relate to his CD’s title-track, Hockeytown. The Nelson, B.C.-native said the song is about communities so small, Greyhound buses roll right through and the central structure in the towns is a hockey arena.
“Hockeytown ties all of us together. There’s a fairly universal feeling in towns like that.”
After all his coast-to-coast travel, Hus believes he’s developed an overview of this country that he would like to share with his fellow Canadians: “My observation is that the people are just great, everywhere you go.
The only reason people would talk poorly about some parts is that they haven’t been there. People have made me feel welcome everywhere.”
Hus will perform in Red Deer with his backup band, The Rocky Mountain Two. Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. concert, presented by the Second Storey Group, are $30 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre or The Matchbox box office.