Music

Corb Lund: Things That Can't Be Undone

Continuing an impressive winning streak, Lund delivers another stellar set, taking things down a notch and back to the beginnings of country rock.


Corb Lund

Things That Can’t Be Undone

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2015-10-09
UK Release Date: 2015-10-09
Amazon
iTunes

On his latest, Canadian country singer Corb Lund abandons modern revisionist country pretensions in favor of a stripped-down, story song-focused approach that leans heavily on the early country/folk rock sound of the Byrds, Gram Parsons, and on at least one track, the Beatles. Unlike a number of his peers, Lund looks to a transitional period in country music for inspiration, when the genre began adopting elements of the burgeoning rock scene and vice-versa. Using minimal overdubs and a standard four-piece band setup, Lund places the focus squarely on the songs themselves, the instrumentation a mere facilitator of the message.

From the dry production of Things That Can’t Be Undone’s opening track, the shuffling outlaw soul of “Weight of the Gun", through the almost conversational, sentimental closer “Sunbeam", Lund shows himself to be an exceptionally gifted songwriter. Each of these ten tracks plays out as sort of linear narrative, a life’s story in miniature.

The twin epics “Sadr City” and “S Lazy H” are both prime examples of Lund’s subtle observational gifts, the latter playing out as a heartbreaking elegy to a quickly vanishing lifestyle while the former chronicles the frustrations of having to embark on tours. It’s not until that song’s second verse the “tour” in question proves not to be yet another life-on-the-road tale, but one focused on a soldier fearing redeployment. Highly affecting, both hearken back to the more humanistic approach to songwriting that originally helped make country music the music of the people rather than merely a lifestyle aesthetic.

Fortunately, not everything here is as thematically heavy as “Sadr City", “S Lazy H”, or even the devastatingly gorgeous “Alice Eyes". On “Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues", Lund delivers a follow-up of sorts to Johnny Paycheck’s blue-collar classic “Take This Job and Shove It", finding a protagonist similar to that song’s, having to begrudgingly reenter the workforce he so dramatically abandoned. “Well I done a lot of singing about sticking it to the man / Today’s the day he’s gonna stick it right back if he can," he sings, concluding that, “Having trouble with authority works better in a song / They’re gonna take that job and shove it right back at me all day long." An amusing approach to the tried and true underdog formula, “Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues” provides a much more realistic picture of the ramifications of Paycheck’s brazen, declarative statements.

Where others tend to play up the standard country tropes, Lund wraps his studied twang in a sparer form of country rock, one more beholden to the Flying Burrito Brothers than the more recent alt-country movement. In this, he uses a rawer approach that, despite the slicker production, feels more akin to the rudimentary production of early country and folk rock. On “Alt Berliner Blues” the band apes a Beatles riff, relies on a shuffling two/four beat and employs a talking blues style lyrical delivery. Similarly, “Talk Too Much” utilizes a lead guitar figure that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on any number of mid-‘60s one-offs.

Free from any sort of filler, Things That Can’t Be Undone offers a strong set of exceptional country-based songs that clock in at just under 40 minutes. Given the album’s relative brevity and unfussy arrangements and production, the songs breeze by, settling in long enough to take hold of the listener and leave a lasting impression. Melodically engaging and narratively compelling, Things That Can’t Be Undone furthers the case for Corb Lund as one of the best contemporary country songwriters. Continuing a winning streak that has now spanned several albums, Lund shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. In a just world, he need not fear turning into the protagonist of “Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues".

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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