CORB LUND with Alana Levandoski at the Horseshoe, October 1. Tickets: $10-$12. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Corb Lund is one imposing fella. His arms are the size of most folks' thighs, so his acoustic guitar looks more like a ukulele in his hands. Wearing a Team Canada hockey jersey and a Confederate hat, he looked more like a cross between Eric Lindros and the Marlboro man than a guy leading a country band.
Yes, he's built like the Alberta farm boy he is, with a bright-eyed, ear-to-ear grin. He's a refreshing change from the rail-thin, overly fragile types who pass for alt-country frontmen these days.
Grant Siemans , the newest member of Lund's band the Hurtin' Albertans , set the tone with some incredibly nimble lap steel for the foot-stompin' , beer guzzlin' hoedown. It was as close to a rodeo as you're likely to get east of Spadina.
Lund's sharp wit and world-wise baritone were in fine form. He had the enthusiastic cowpokes singing along to No Roads Here and the Dwight Yoakam-ish (Gonna) Shine Up My Boots, from 02's Five Dollar Bill, before easing into material from his much anticipated latest disc, Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer.
It was a band effort, and the Hurtin' Albertans are one fucking tight unit who wouldn't be outta place backing Buck Owens or Merle Haggard. Double bass man Kurt Ciesla hit notes so low I could feel my balls vibrate in perfect four/four time. He and drummer Brady Valgardson made a formidable rhythm section that allowed Lund and Siemans to pick away at will and challenge each other like some Dickey Betts-Duane Allman guitar-off.
With so many songs about getting stuck in the mud, farming, rodeos and cowboy glory days, all backed by straight-up country hooks, you can't help wondering what differentiates alt-country from just plain country. Even the cowboy hats in the audience were the true cowboy kind - not the trendy ones you got at the mall but full-on 10-gallon-type hats, plus Tony Lama boots and Wrangler rodeo shirts.
Where have all the cowboys gone? The Horseshoe Tavern, where they belong.