Corb Lund trades in raunchy riffs for down-home country roots on Five Dollar Bill



By Steve Newton

The last time I talked to Corb Lund, two years back, he regaled me with stories of his then-group the smalls’ adventures while touring in Bosnia, of all places. The rifle-toting border guards over there weren’t always thrilled to have the Alberta rockers spreading the gospel of loud guitars and cannonading drums. After 12 years and four independent CDs, the smalls called it quits last fall, and now Lund has traded in riff-driven raunch for down-home country-roots music, which he describes as “a combination of old Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson kinda stuff, with a twist”.

But, as he explains from a tour stop in Nelson, B.C., Lund’s mission to bring music to the masses still has its inherent hassles. “I hate to do this to ya,” he blurts out early in our chat, “but I’m parked in front of a loading zone unloading our gear, and there’s a guy on my back tryin’ to get us to move, so can I call you back in five minutes?”

It takes the wily Lund less time than that to find a spot for his wheels in the thriving metropolis of Nelson, and he’s soon back on the line, talking about his new CD, Five Dollar Bill. Turns out it was helmed by Harry Stinson, an in-demand Nashville producer, drummer, and backup singer who played on the first couple of Steve Earle albums, as well as Lyle Lovett’s acclaimed Pontiac.

“He’s a fantastic musician,” raves Lund, “and he’s got a real big artistic vision. I spent a coupla years putting all these songs together on my own, and then he was a really good sounding board for the last 10 percent of the songs—like ‘Put a guitar solo here’ or ‘Slow it down’ or ‘Add a chorus.’ He just brought a real class to the whole thing that was awesome.”

Stinson played drums on five of the new CD’s tracks, and original Cord Lund Band drummer Ryan Vikedal rattled the skins on six before being called away to help his current group, Nickelback, conquer the mainstream rock world. While Five Dollar Bill’s dusty-trail ditties of rodeos and ranch life signify a huge change in direction from the jarring music Lund made with the smalls, he figures old smalls fans can still find something to enjoy in his current project. They’ll find out for sure when Lund’s trio—which includes upright bassist Kurt Ciesla and drummer Brady Valgardson—plays the Brickyard on Friday (August 23).

“It’s a different trip,” he notes, “but the smalls fans are coming out to a surprising degree. In fact the show that we’re doin’ comin’ up at the Brickyard is kind of geared toward that crowd. And the opening act, the Hard Luck Band, is a really heavy band that the smalls used to play with, too.”

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