Canadian country singer Corb Lund is no stranger to his homeland. Lund has been releasing albums and racking up awards for more than 20 years, culminating in last year’s Agricultural Tragic. However, just like any number of things that appeared in 2020, that album may have flown under your radar when it was released last summer. Now, though, Agricultural Tragic has been reissued with four enticing bonus tracks, giving us another chance to hear what a fun collection of tunes it is.
Oh, just so you know: while Agricultural Tragic is not specifically a concept album, there are horses all over it. Lots of horses. The opening track, “90 Seconds of Your Time”, immediately lets listeners know that this is one album that both Donny and Marie would enjoy: it’s a little bit country and a little bit rock ’n’ roll. Lund sings about “taking a minute and a half to recognize decisions that could affect your life and possibly mine”, with a voice that shares a bit of the same swagger that inhabits the voices of guys like Marty Stuart and Rodney Crowell.
Drinking songs and duets are long-time country music traditions. “I Think You Outta Try Whiskey”, sung by Lund and Jaida Dreyer, combines these subgenres to become an instant classic in each of them. Lund and Dreyer trade lines, debating the relative merits of whiskey and gin (Lund: “Whiskey makes you frisky babe”. Dreyer: “Much to my chagrin.”). This is pure Conway-and-Loretta circa 1973 and it is pure Canadian country music genius.
While humor is an integral part of Agricultural Tragic, the album does contain some nice philosophical moments. “Old Men” is a thoughtful meditation on youth and experience, noting that “there are some things young men can’t do like the old boys do.” These things include whiskey making, blues singing, and horse training. “Raining Horses” and “Never Not Have Horses” are also quieter songs that reflect on having too many, and not enough, horses in one’s life. “Louis L’Amour” evokes the classic western writer to comment on the complexity of what once might have deceptively seemed to be a simple lifestyle.
The proper album ends with “Tattoos Blues”, a sung/spoken word cautionary tale about when and where you choose to get ink. But you’ll want to stick around for the four bonus tracks. “Hard to Play the Steel Guitar (for Super Frank)” notes the many reasons why it is, in fact, hard to play a steel guitar, which of course features some wailing steel guitar courtesy of Dan Dugmore. Meanwhile, “Fancy Pickin’” is a downhome tune that namechecks both Slim Pickens and “Chucky Dickens”.
Best of all, Jaida Dreyer returns for another delightful duet, “Horse Poor”, a treatise on the economic parameters of equine ownership (“We’re horse poor…I sell one, she buys five more”). Conway and Loretta recorded 10 albums together; Corb and Jaida surely have at least one whole album in them. The last bonus track is a big remake of opener “90 Seconds of Your Time”, complete with horns, an organ, and backing vocalists that take the song straight to late ’60s Elvis-in-Memphis territory, always a good place to be.
While we all might be inclined to just want to forget all about 2020, it’s not a bad idea to revisit and reclaim the good stuff from that wretched year. Corb Lund’s Agricultural Tragic would be a fine place to start.