Alberta’s alt-country singer Corb Lund is no stranger to the growing clashes between agriculture and the oil industry.
While he’s been on the road a lot lately and hasn’t heard of the bombings in Peace River Country, Lund has written an eerily parallel song about someone who’s so frustrated by oilfield pollution that he’s ready to take a violent stand.
The farmer in his tune This is My Prairie links drilling to poisoned water, dead calves and sick children. Lund’s anti-hero doesn’t have money for lawyers and doesn’t have government laws on his side — but he does have his granddaddy’s rifle.
When Lund hears a real person has blown up six Encana pipelines along the Northern Alberta-B.C. border since October 2008, he seems shocked that his art is imitating life.
“It’s the same desperation,” said Lund.
He dedicated This is My Prairie, from his latest Losin’ Lately Gambler CD to his mother, Patty, a 1959 barrel racing champ and member of a Southern Alberta landowners’ group that’s taking on the encroaching oil industry over water contamination concerns.
Lund, who performs with his band The Hurtin’ Albertans on Tuesday at Red Deer’s Centrium, knows “it sucks if you’re a landowner and you can’t keep (oil companies) off your land.”
And he strongly empathizes with rural Albertans who feel their family’s health has been hurt by industry emissions.
But at the same time, Lund said he’d feel hypocritical, as a car driver, to whine too loudly about the oilpatch, which also provides a living for six or seven of his friends.
Instead, he believes after talking with his mom, that Alberta needs to enforce environmental regulations to reign in corporations and protect the public.
“Eventually the whole thing’s going to change,” said Lund — just as transportation evolved from horse-drawn carriages to cars, it’s bound to transform again when world oil reserves run out.
Lund’s career is making swifter changes, with more focus on the U.S. market since Lund got signed to an American label, New West Records.
“It’s exciting to be on the same label as Dwight Yoakam and Kris Kristofferson,” said the singer, who believes the label liked his unique approach to country music, since it’s accustomed to working with unconventional artists, including Steve Earle, John Hiatt and Rickie Lee Jones.
As a former member of Edmonton alternative rock group The Smalls, Lund grew up listening to traditional country music. But he later made a career out of blending these early country influences with the Black Sabbath and other rock groups he started listening to in his teenage years.
Lund predicted his “underground” form of country music likely won’t get played on U.S. radio stations, the way it is on Canadian ones. “I’ve been lucky to get played in Canada as much as I have.”
But being largely ignored by U.S. radio would be OK with Lund, who doesn’t aim to be the next Garth Brooks (“I don’t really like his music, anyway,” he admitted).
Lund, who does admire Kristofferson and Yoakam, doesn’t aim for any particular audience. “I’ll take what I can get, as long as it’s some kind of audience.”
Losin’ Lately Gambler is the sixth album for the Juno-Award winning singer, best known for his hits Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer and Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier!
Other songs on his latest album concern veterinarians — Lund’s father was one — Chinook wind, steer riding, a female gunslinger, people abandoning Alberta to go back to Saskatchewan, gambling and a broken heart.
Most of his songs are based on personal experience, including the latter two.
Lund said he gambles enough to know that losing is a self-inflicted problem — and he encourages listeners to insert any metaphor they choose into the song A Game in Town Like This.
“Most of my songs have more than one level to them, that’s the trick with songwriting.”
Alberta Says Hello, a song about lost love, is actually about a breakup Lund experienced last year in a long-term relationship.
“I don’t usually write these kind of songs, unless they’re based on something real. I don’t like to make them up,” said Lund, who believes the love-gone-wrong genre has enough songs without his contribution.
But when a hurtin’ song is based on real emotions, he believes it can be therapeutic.