I Wanna Taranna Pt. 31: Sonic Boom #14 $2.99 Deal #7: Corb Lund – Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!
Here’s Lund’s 5th album, and along for the ride are the Hurtin’ Albertans, which tells you right away that’s it’s gonna be fuckin’ awesome. It’s a cowboy good time, of course, and he tackles some historical politics as well. Why not, right? Right. Even better, he’s written about horse soldiers (natch) from the Little Big Horn to our current mounted police, and everyone in between.
This is a hoedown, plain and true. It has four singles: I Wanna Be In The Cavalry and the title track, as well as Family Reunion and Hard On Equipment (Tool For The Job) – which show off his humour (like The Truck Got Stuck did, on an earlier record). He sing/talks, and he hits home with uncanny accuracy.
Every time I hear a Corb Lund record, I realize I need more Corb Lund records until I have them all. Simple as that.
I like Corb Lund. Saw him before and enjoyed it. Wanted to see him again. Not everything is interesting.
With Mika in school, on this night I was accompanied by Jason and Melissa, a friend from work and his wife. You may recall them from when we went to see the UFC in Saskatoon together, except that wasn’t a concert so I didn’t tell you about that. Jason was kind enough to not only let me invite myself along with them but he even picked up our tickets. He put us in the front row of the balcony; fine work.
The last time I saw Corb Lund at the casino, you may remember that I complained about all the big-ass trucks in the parking lot. It turns out that I didn’t know from big-ass trucks; when you go see a country singer while Agribition is on, it’s a whole ‘nother level. Of trucks. As is becoming tradition, I composed and sang a song to myself during the ever-frustrating drive through the casino parkade. It had swears.
I’ve mostly never been to Agribition. Doesn’t seem like my thing. One time I walked past a bunch of closed exhibits to go see Willie Nelson at the Brandt Centre, but I don’t think that counts. I know very little about it other than when it’s on, you can’t find a hotel room in town. Folks from all over the province come in big-ass trucks to see… I don’t know, whatever there is to see at an agricultural exhibition. They also like going to country shows.
I got to the casino with 10 minutes to spare and met up with Jason and Melissa in the balcony. The last Corb show at the casino had floor seating too, which wasn’t quite ideal for a crowd that wanted to get drunk and rowdy. This time, they’d left the floor as standing-room, which… again, not quite ideal. You can’t win, casino. Earlier in the day, I read that this show and tour was called “BS With CL” – instead of a full band, Corb was going to be out there by himself with just a guitar. There was a phone number where you could text Corb your questions and he’d answer some of them and tell stories as the show went on. I thought it was a little odd that there was no mention of this in any of the casino’s advertising for the show (at least, nothing that I saw). Had I not seen that one Facebook post, I’d have been expecting a normal concert. Don’t get me wrong – I’d rather see something unique. I just think if an artist is going to be doing something markedly different from normal, you might want to tell people before they buy tickets. The casino is very upfront about Weird Al’s upcoming show being a significant departure from his usual shenanigans, and Saskatoon’s Broadway Theatre used the BS With CL name and description in advertising, so I don’t know what happened here.
I wasn’t sure if we were getting an opener, but the show was kicked off by Mike Plume. I knew the name, not sure from where. He’s pals with Corb and I suspect if you like one, you’d like them both. He sang a short set with a lot of Canadiana – songs about hockey and Stompin’ Tom and working in Fort Mac and Remembrance Day and the country itself. It seemed like he won the crowd over by the end of it – the ode to Stompin’ Tom was a particular favourite and has been stuck in my head off and on since then.
Corb was out after a noticeably brief intermission, and yep, the whole set was just him and a guitar (apart from a few songs where he was joined by Plume, so it was two guys with guitars). I don’t think you could complain about the setlist – it was packed with old and new favourites and there wasn’t much you could have been left wanting. Looking over Corb’s discography now, it occurs to me that 1) I’ve listened to a fair bit of his music, 2) it’s real good, and 3) he sampled pretty evenly from all his records. Really, if you wanted the Corb Lund starter kit, this setlist was perfect. The biggest reactions were saved for Five-Dollar Bill and The Truck Got Stuck, as well as anything that mentioned Saskatchewan or places therein (Hurtin’ Albertan, Long Gone to Saskatchewan, and the one Plume song they did together, The Big American Headliner). Really, between Lund and Plume, there’s no way I’ve been to a show with more local references, and they’re both no-good Albertans. Plume may be a transplant from New Brunswick, but still. No-good Albertan.
As far as the BS part went, there really wasn’t a ton. Corb had his phone on stage and checked it for questions, but there wasn’t much more talking than a normal show. He went into a little detail about Talkin’ Veterinarian Blues, Family Reunion, The Truck Got Stuck, and personal favourite S Lazy H. A lot of his stories centred on which of the songs are based on true stories. Answer: a lot of them, though they have made-up parts too. Which is what you’d expect.
I thought this was great, but it did seem like maybe this wasn’t the show the Agribition crowd wanted. You could hear an awful lot of distracting talking coming from the folks on the floor. I think there was a pretty sizable contingent that wanted to get drunk and rowdy and this didn’t really provide the opportunity. I mean, some did anyway, but nowhere near what you’d expect. I really dig Corb but find his fans to be a bit much sometimes. I keep going to see him, since he’s great and all, but you need to prepare yourself for the drunken yahoos you may encounter. This seemed like it was less of a show for them and more for me, so, y’know, no complaints here.
I say “Corb Lund fans” as if I’m not one, but somehow, Corb became one of my favourite musicians. I didn’t even really realize it until I was thinking about it today and realized just how much of his stuff I know well and enjoy. I’ve liked him for a long time, but I wouldn’t have ever thought to list him among my very favourites, but somehow, that happened and I didn’t even realize it.
Or to put it all another way, enjoyed it. Want to see him again.
It is Monday night, and I have to give a speech at Toastmasters on Wednesday, and I made the last-minute call to see Yukon Blonde tomorrow so I know I’ll be out late with no time to prep a speech, so that’s what I should be doing right now. So I made nachos and made breakfast and lunch for tomorrow and wrote some emails and did dishes and now I’m writing a concert review while Raw drags on for hours in the background. And playing games on my phone. Obviously.
I have sort of seen Corb Lund twice before; once with his old not-at-all country band the smalls (preferred – but irritating – capitalization invoked due to this being the only time I will mention them) and once by himself at the Exchange, years ago, where things got started late and we tapped out early. Luckily, the casino runs on old-man time. Not that Corb Lund attracts the greyhairs in the way that, say, Chubby Checker or Bobby Curtola did. I DID note that I had never seen that many pickup trucks in the casino parking lot before, but I suppose that was to be expected.
The theme of this winter’s concert series seems to be Folk/Country – only The Headstones are outliers so far (and looking only at my first concerts of the year, you’d get a really skewed sense of my tastes). Alternately, it could be Shows I Went to Without Mika Because She Was in School. That only includes two of the first five shows, but there are at least two more coming, and others that I am seeing out of town. I offered to buy her a ticket to come see local indie wrestling with me next week, but she declined my generous offer. Some people just don’t appreciate the comedic stylings of Colt “Boom Boom” Cabana, I guess.
On this night, I would luckily not have to go stag – Jeff picked up tickets for me and two of his friends. I did not catch their names because I am bad at hearing and worse at remembering, but they seemed like lovely people. He mentioned that this was his first time at a casino show (he was as delighted as I to learn that the casino keeps a strict schedule for us senior citizens) and now we’d be going three times in short order. I bought tickets to The Watchmen, he bought the Corb tix, and we each bought our own for I Mother Earth. I suggest we schedule a WebEx to discuss these methods in order to determine optimal efficiency and also whether we will ever see an American musician again. First order of business is selecting lunch.
Our hosts were local country radio DJs – I assume – whose wacky banter can only be described as having died a death. Oh well, they can’t all be the ad writer from the rock station who introduces all the rock bands, a concept that still seems weird to me, but whatever. Maybe I’m just jealous because my work never taps me to introduce bands. All I ever got to do was write a letter to Leonard Nimoy once.
The opener was Daniel Romano, about whom I knew nothing except Mika seemed jealous that I got to see him and she did not. That is the only way I know whether or I not I am listening to something good. That is why I bought a ticket for Yukon Blonde. She is not jealous that she missed out on Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s Cat Party. Though she should be.
Anyway, Romano is a singer-songwriter country type, as you might expect. He was accompanied by a pair of guitarists. His music was a little more sedate than Corb’s stuff tends to be, and I’m not sure how to say that his lyrics are a bit more serious and emotional and less “fun” without it sounding like a negative, which it isn’t. I enjoyed his set and he was quite well received at our table, judging by the mass exodus to buy CDs as soon as he was done. I’m looking forward to spending some time with his albums, of which there appear to be quite a few, judging from the big ol’ list in the iTunes store.
On a somewhat related topic, our group discussed the fine art of deciding which album to get when you’re interested in an artist but don’t know where to begin. We settled on “just get the second album,” thinking that first albums don’t have all the kinks worked out yet, and nobody cares about your new songs if you have old ones. This makes me want to go through all the artists I like enough to know about their albums to see if that holds up. Word tells me that sentence is confusing, but you know what I mean. Or you don’t. I’m okay with that.
At one point, Jeff asked how to pronounce Romano’s last name – Ro-MA-no, or Ro-MAH-no. I said, as though I actually knew, that it was Ro-MAH-no, “like Ray or cheese.” “And not,” said Jeff, “like when you find out who’s headlining Wrestlemania.” About 10 seconds later, I inadvertently inhaled Diet Pepsi into my sinuses. I can be a bit slow, sometimes.
Corb opened with four songs off his newest album, Things That Can’t be Undone, including Goodbye Colorado, Run This Town, and Weight of a Gun. He then moved into older stuff and the crowd started to wake up. It’s weird that there were more rowdy drunks at Blue Rodeo at the Centre of the Arts than at Corb Lund at a casino, though there were certainly a few. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The older songs at the start included Shine Up My Boots and Five-Dollar Bill. As for the rest of the night, I didn’t keep a detailed tracklist, but I know he played (in no particular order) Roughest Neck Around, Little Foothills Heaven, Sunbeam, Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues, Cows Around, Dig Gravedigger Dig, and Gettin’ Down on the Mountain. He followed Hurtin’ Albertan with Long Gone to Saskatchewan, which he noted the band always has to dust off and tune up around Medicine Hat.
Before finishing off his main set, Corb sent his band to the back so he could do a few songs by himself. The first, S Lazy H, is a newer – and completely depressing! – song about the life of a rancher. The next song was… decidedly not that. Jeff mentioned seeing Corb play Five-Dollar Bill before it was ever recorded, and now it is a favourite “older song” and oh God we’re all getting so old so fast make it stop. I may have added that last bit. Anyway, my point is that after S Lazy H, Corb played a new unreleased song for us and I can see myself having that feeling far off in the future when it is an old favourite. This was a highlight of the night. I found a video of the song online, recorded a few days earlier in Edmonton, and it’s a shame that the title of the song is shown because it was fun to hear the lyrics and try to work out where he was going with it.
(but I can turn off the title when embedding it here!)
Anyway, after that delightful number, the band came back to close out the show with I Wanna Be in the Cavalry (which he said was called “Please God Buy a T-shirt so we Don’t Have to Ship Them Back to Toronto at the End of the Tour”), followed by the allegedly religious number Time to Switch to Whiskey. This seems like a great point to introduce our new best friend. I mentioned that there were surprisingly few drunks in the crowd. Luckily, we were close to one. He started early on with some timid pointing in the air, which grew into increasingly enthusiastic fist pumps as the night went on. He moved on to shouting out song titles and raising his drink in the air every time alcohol was mentioned, which was often. All four of us at our table became aware of this man individually, only gradually realizing that we were all watching him. When Corb said he was going to play some songs off Cabin Fever, our friend yelled “GRAVEDIGGER,” which Corb acknowledged with a wink and a nod before launching into the song. This may have been the best moment of this fella’s life. At another point, he hollered something incomprehensible, to which Corb deadpanned “…wow” and I don’t remember what happened for about five minutes after that because I think I died.
Also, at one point, he may have been riding an imaginary horse.
Anyhoo. Our guy also liked to gesture to the people around him to try to get them to stand up and appreciate Corb to an appropriate degree. Somewhere on the other side of the casino, another fella had the same idea, only he got up and walked around the front of the stage, trying to get people to stand up. This made Corb crack up and dedicate one of the last songs to him, which made our guy jealously gesture in a “what about ME” sort of way. Our guy then stood up, sat down, got back up, held himself awkwardly between standing and sitting for a bit, before finally taking his lady’s hand and pulling her towards the front of the stage. There was some brief discussion about whether this was a terrible idea or (obviously) the BEST idea. Anyway, they danced, by which I mean he smashed himself against her and did sort of an Elvis swivel. I was so full of joy.
After that and a quick encore break (and change of shirt, I think), they played a handful more: Good Copenhagen, The Truck Got Stuck (with a notable lyric switch from “nothing better to do… except ranch” to “…except bitch about the new government” which is probably quite true to the 2016 Alberta experience), Seven Spanish Angels, and Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer. Which will now be in my head for several days just because I wrote out the title. He said that’s where they normally end the show, but by special request, we got one last song – Counterfeiter’s Blues. This show started off a little slowly but by the end it was the best and I was loving life and music and drunks who are close enough to be entertaining but far enough away to not be my problem.
We didn’t stick around long enough to see if Corb fulfilled his promise of spending the rest of the evening at the tables, but I’ve heard Geoff Berner’s song “Don’t Play Cards for Money with Corby Lund” so I think it’s a safe bet. But what do I know about bets? I lost my $5 free slot play voucher in two spins and called it a night.