Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Reviews:: Corb Lund Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!

On the surface, Corb Lund is not going to be an artist you'd gravitate towards. I mean, country-fused songs with complex narratives about war, the cavalry and a strange obsession with horses is not most people's cup o' tea and to be honest, I hit eject the first time I listened to I Wanna Be In the Cavalry. Luckily, I decided to give the record the proper effort before giving up on it and I'm glad I did.

As I wasted hours in San Francisco traffic yesterday I had only one CD in the car. Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! by default became the soundtrack to my trip. Despite the unique choice in subject matter, you can't deny Corb's lyrical skill. He paints detailed images of fragility, fear, love, and loss all within the context of soldiers from the past.

I Wanna Be In the Cavalry starts with marching band snare and jumps into a narrative about a man's dream to be in the cavalry. It's not your standard every day fair, but Corb and his band (who have the awesome moniker the Hurtin' Albertans) slowly add strings, banjo and the song takes shape. The most shocking thing is you start straining to hear his words and become completely engaged in the story. Corb makes you feel like you are listening to a historical telling from a Civil war vet, but it's on the title track that you really start to realize the power of his words.

Over a surprisingly addictive combination of drums, strings, electric and gut string guitar, Corb tells the tales of great soldiers over the years. The track is an aural time capsule as he mentions Bonaparte, Ghangis Khan, Bedford Forrest and the burning of the White House. By the time the song reaches it's breakdown and Lund is left whispering over delicate strings you are hooked, focused on every word.

Now, I know you might be thinking, "jebus: 15 songs about war?" Don't worry, Lund adds enough funny tracks like Hard on Equipment and Family Reunion (which to be honest, fail to deliver the punch of his stronger tracks and come off a bit slap sticky) to stop the record from being too focused, but it's his story telling that stands out. The reprise to I Want to Be in the Cavalry moves at a crawl - using the mandolin to add the emotion - and details sickness ravaging a platoon of soldiers. The feeling of loss and desperation run through the song and makes the album closer one of the most powerful tracks on the record.

I don't think you could tell someone they'd be singing along to a man riding in on "a big sorrel gelding with a golden streaked mane", but after a couple listens to The Horse I Rode In On, that is exactly what I was doing. Student Visas tells the story of a militia helicopter gunner, and his chopper going down. Colb hits you with enough family history and detail that the images he sings about are crystal clear.

Despite his lyrical chops, you really can't overlook the contributions the Albertans make. The guitar and slapped out stand up bass line on Brother Brigham, Brother Young drives the tongue-in-cheek spiritual track. The church confessional to the most famous of Mormons makes you want to dance in the pews, clapping along as you rejoice. The deep south blues feel of What that Songs Means Now spikes the energy, using rim shot percussion , slapped bass and dobro and shows how easily the band can jump styles.

This record is much more ambitious than 95% of the records I get sent, and I was almost too ready to ignore it. Hopefully the rest of you don't make the same mistake.
MP3:: Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!

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Posted at 4:02 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous did sayeth:

This review is right on the money! It's real country, which is what makes it cool. No polished boots and $200 shirts with this bunch. You can tell they are Alberta ranchers in their other lives. See 'em live if you can. Not oo many acts chug down beer in between songs anymore liek Corb does.

 

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