Released on September 22, 2009, Losin’ Lately Gambler is Corb Lund’s sixth studio album on a major label. Backed by his impressively spot-on band, “The Hurtin’ Albertans,” this album marks another step in Lund’s career: an introduction to an American audience. Although Lund has an immense underground following, and even some Canadian country radio success, remarkably few people have ever heard of him. This is a tragedy that needs to be rectified.
Lund’s unique style, forged by a wide array of interests such as history, agriculture, and politics, makes his music and lyrics stand out amidst an endless sea of highly commercialized country pop. Corb Lund is not your typical country singer. Lund grew up on a farm/ranch (unlike the majority of modern country stars) in southern Alberta, before moving to Edmonton to study jazz and bass guitar. He was also a founding member of an indie punk/rock band called “The Smalls” (which gained local legend status), before moving ahead with his folk/alt country career.
Losin’ Lately Gambler begins with the song, “Horse Doctor, Come Quick.” An upright bass licks out the groove of the tune, and a banjo fills out the background. “Horse Doctor” is about a farm vet who finds himself accosted by a junkie who wants some cheap animal grade “drugs.” Immediately, one call tell this is no ordinary “country” album.
“Steer Rider’s Blues” starts out with a rock-a-billy beat and a 60s sounding guitar lick. This one’s about a lad whose dream is to ride a bucking bull, impress the ladies with his riding skills, and feel a thousand eyes all trained on him during a full-fledged rodeo.
“A Game in Town Like This” is the first of a handful of songs that have a slightly more mainstream approach on this album (though still musically and lyrically superior to most mainstream country), and was the first single to hit the airwaves. Since Losin’ Lately Gambler is the band’s first American release; it seems likely that compromises were made to produce some more radio friendly tunes.
“Alberta Says Hello” is a heartfelt song about passing a message on to an ex through a mutual friend. This one feels almost autobiographical, and was probably one of the harder songs for Lund to write. Generally, and thankfully, his albums tend to have very few “relationship songs.”
“Talkin’ Veterinarian Blues” is a song influenced by ages old country/folk music. Take a look at any old Woody Guthrie album and you’ll find all sorts of “Talkin’ fill-in-the-blanks Blues.” Fortunately, Lund has thrown an updated spin on the Talkin’ Blues genre. This one’s a jaunty foot stomping tune about a veterinarian and his daily plights, as well as the plights of various farm animals and the procedures they have to endure. Even though the content is a tad on the grisly side, it somehow manages to make you laugh.
“It’s Hard to Keep a White Shirt Clean” is an homage to Willie P. Bennett, a Canadian Alt Country legend who passed away in 2008, while “Long Gone to Saskatchewan” touches on the monetary difficulties that Albertan’s can face when trying to operate a ranch and stay afloat, as well as the folks who pick up and leave to find cheaper places to operate. “Devil’s Best Dress” is a song in the style of Marty Robbins about a cold woman who doesn’t mind shooting anyone who gets on her bad side.
The album finishes with a fun-filled live version of “Rye Whiskey/Time to Switch to Whiskey.” Aside from a few mainstream sounding songs that feel a little out of sorts with Lund’s usual style, this is an incredible album.
Twice I’ve seen Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans play live, and both times they’ve simply blown me away. These guys are incredible at what they do, both in the studio and on stage. Nearly every song on every album that bears their name is superb. Their incredible range of musical styles and Lund’s impressive word play culminate into something that is much more than just a band. Everyone should give them a listen, at least once.
Personal Rating: 81/90 (90%)
1: Lyrics: 10/10
2: Significance: 9/10
3: Music: 10/10
4: Freshness: 9/10
5: Production Quality: 9/10
6: Composition: 8/10
7: Dynamic Range: 7/10
8: Humanity: 10/10
9: Cohesiveness: 9/10