By Steve Newton
The last time I talked to Corb Lund about the smalls, back in 2000, he was known as Corby and had just returned from a tour of Bosnia-Herzegovina with the Edmonton-based guitar rockers. Nearly a decade and a half later you can still call him Corby (“Either one, take your pick”), and he still has fond memories of that adventurous journey to the exotic holiday destination of Sarajevo.
“It’s still one of the most interesting trips I’ve done,” notes Lund on the line from Grande Prairie, Alberta, before a gig there with the reunited smalls. He’s hooked back up with the group’s other three original members—singer Mike Caldwell, guitarist Dug Bevans, and drummer Terry Johnson—and is in the midst of a cross-Canada tour.
“It’s been 13 years since we retired,” he explains, “and we just all thought it might be fun, that’s basically the size of it. People have been asking about it for quite a while. We got out of touch for quite a few years, then we started talking a bit about it, just warming up to the idea. Then earlier this year we just decided it’d be a fun thing to do.
“And it’s been really great,” he adds. “It’s fun hangin’ out with these guys again and playin’ the songs. When 12 years go by, a lot of silly tensions just go away ’cause we’re all older and wiser. We’ve played about eight shows so far, and we’ve run into so many people from the old days we haven’t seen in ages.”
Back in their heyday the smalls were known for tricky songs that were a mishmash of heavy metal, country, indie, alt-rock, and punk. It hasn’t been easy learning those complex numbers again.
“Very challenging,” reports Lund. “It’s complicated music, right, it’s not simple stuff. And not only that, it’s almost like we’re living in somebody else’s songs after that much time. Mentally, you gotta remember everything, but you’ve also got to keep your hands in shape to do it. It was pretty fast and furious back then.”
Lund says that old smalls faves like “My Saddle Horse Has Died”, “Domination”, and the title track of their 1999 album My Dear Little Angle (which opens the current show) have been going over particularly well. Those tunes should make an appearance when the band plays the Commodore Friday and Sunday (November 7 and 9), with tomorrow’s gig already sold-out. So was Lund surprised by the show of support in Van City?
“Yes and no,” he replies. “We weren’t sure what to expect. I think we did two nights at the Commodore on our final tour in 2001, but this whole tour was a mystery to us—we didn’t know if we’d get 200 people or 2,000 or what. I still don’t know if it’s mostly older people coming that used to see us, or if they convinced their kids to come, or if it’s some younger rock kids that know us but were too young to see us, or the odd Corb Lund gawker—I don’t know. It’s pretty cool, though. They still have a few tickets for the second show, but the first one sold out in two minutes.”