Country's Corb Lund Finds the Absurd in 'Agricultural Tragic'

Photo: Noah Fallis / Courtesy of New West Records

On Corb Lund's Agricultural Tragic, he sings of grizzly bears, tattoos, hunting rats and elk, the meaning of author Louis L'Amour's fiction, and the meaning of life.

Agricultural Tragic
Corb Lund

New West

26 June 2020

Canadian country and western singer-songwriter Corb Lund is a funny guy. He's also smart, good with wordplay, and knows how to tell a story. On Lund's latest album, Agricultural Tragic, he addresses a wide range of topics from grizzly bears to tattoos, hunting rats to hunting elk, the meaning of author Louis L'Amour's fiction to the meaning of life, and that crazy friend who might just get you killed, with a wry smile and an earnest heart. More importantly, the songs do so in a variety of musical styles including rockabilly and western swing that keeps things from ever getting boring. The only thing tragic about the new album is that it's only 12 short songs long (they average about three minutes each).

Agricultural Tragic is Lund's 11th studio album, and his experience shows. He knows how to build momentum, when to be playful and when to get serious. He even has a song about the benefits of aging when it comes to certain tasks. He sings: "I want old men makin' my whiskey / I want old men singin' my blues / I want old men teachin' my horses / 'Cause there's just some things young men can't do / Like the old boys do."

Sure, these lines stereotype. They are not only ageist; they are sexist. The message is not hurtful to others but merely express a personal preference in a playful manner. Like many generalities, they have the ring of truth to them that only dissipates when you think about it. Lund understands this. He puts it out there, and by doing so, he is mocking himself as inadequate to the tasks at hand. He is middle-aged and in the context of the song, not up for the work that both young and older men and women can do better than he can.

While Lund claims on this track that he wants old men making his whiskey, he's not so particular on the humorous duet with fellow Canadian country singer Jaida Dreyer "I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey". Lund again engages in myth and hyperbole to make his case. He proclaims the merits of the brown stuff while Dreyer asserts the virtue of gin over a train engine style beat that would make Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two proud. Corb's band the Hurtin' Albertans features his long-time accompanists drummer Brady Valgardson, guitar player Grant Siemens, and upright bass player Kurt Ciesla.

The more serious songs still contain humorous elements that deepen Lund's insights. The true-life tale of a hunting expedition that turns into something more murderous, "90 Seconds of Your Time", addresses post-traumatic stress disorder in a profoundly personal way. Lund notes the interdependence between people and horses on two songs, "Never Not Had Horses" and "Raining Horses", the latter of which focuses on the glut of equines dumped on farms as a result of recent legislation and the financial costs involved. Or as Lund notes on the bouncy "Ranchin', Ridin', Romance", learning about mounts is an essential part of three Rs of rural life.

At times Agricultural Tragic may purposely sound old fashioned at times to suggest a more glorious past, but it is a distinctly contemporary album. Lund mourns what's been lost, but his lyrics suggest that he understands that change is an inevitable fact of life. The best one can do is to hang on, be glad one's alive, and laugh at the absurdity of one's circumstances.







Zadie Smith's 'Intimations' Essays Pandemic With Erudite Wit and Compassion

Zadie Smith's Intimations is an essay collection of gleaming, wry, and crisp prose that wears its erudition lightly but takes flight on both everyday and lofty matters.


Phil Elverum Sings His Memoir on 'Microphones in 2020'

On his first studio album under the Microphones moniker since 2003, Phil Elverum shows he has been recording the same song since he was a teenager in the mid-1990s. Microphones in 2020 might be his apex as a songwriter.


Washed Out's 'Purple Noon' Supplies Reassurance and Comfort

Washed Out's Purple Noon makes an argument against cynicism simply by existing and sounding as good as it does.


'Eight Gates' Is Jason Molina's Stark, Haunting, Posthumous Artistic Statement

The ten songs on Eight Gates from the late Jason Molina are fascinating, despite – or perhaps because of – their raw, unfinished feel.


Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".


12 Brilliant Recent Jazz Albums That Shouldn't Be Missed

There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.


Blues Legend Bobby Rush Reinvigorates the Classic "Dust My Broom" (premiere)

Still going strong at 86, blues legend Bobby Rush presents "Dust My Broom" from an upcoming salute to Mississippi blues history, Rawer Than Raw, rendered in his inimitable style.


Folk Rock's the Brevet Give a Glimmer of Hope With "Blue Coast" (premiere)

Dreamy bits of sunshine find their way through the clouds of dreams dashed and lives on the brink of despair on "Blue Coast" from soulful rockers the Brevet.


Michael McArthur's "How to Fall in Love" Isn't a Roadmap (premiere)

In tune with classic 1970s folk, Michael McArthur weaves a spellbinding tale of personal growth and hope for the future with "How to Fall in Love".


Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.