Once more joined by his long-time band, The Hurtin’ Albertans, the Canadian singer-songwriter Corb Lund has enlisted producer-de-jour Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson) for Things That Can’t Be Undone, his first new studio album in three years.
Whether down to Cobb’s influence or just things assimilated in the time between, it finds Lund pushing out into new (or perhaps that should be old) musical territory, a move immediately clear from the lyrically dark opening cut, Weight Of A Gun, which brings an old-school Motown groove to a burden of guilt/conscience-themed number he calls “a Louis L’Amour style western tale” as he sings “my hands are empty, but my mind is filled with things that cannot be undone”.
That retro feel is evident throughout, harking back to the 60s and 70s in a mix of soul, country and rock. Run This Town is a catchy, easy rolling honky tonk country tune with a twangy guitar line and crowd-friendly chorus, a musical setting that’s also home for chirpy leaving song ‘Goodbye Colorado’ with its classic Cash signature rhythm.
Likewise, although the track itself develops into a bluesy swagger, driven by Grant Siemens’ electric licks, the guitar intro to Talk Too Much instantly put me in mind of Last Train To Clarkesville, while, again with an eye on the past, Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues, co-penned with Evan Felker from the Turnpike Troubadours, casts itself as an amusing sequel to Johnny Paycheck’s Take This Job And Shove It.
Lund has, of course, built a reputation for sardonic and sharp observational lyrics, and there’s plenty of that here. The wry, uptempo chugging Alt Berliner Blues offers an allegory about housing development that sweeps away tradition as he sings about a long-standing German bar being demolished and of “a century of thirst outlasting two or three world wars, one hundred year old beer halls that do not exist no more.”
Sung in the voice of an American soldier, ‘Sadr City’, with its Eastern influenced psychedelic guitar riff, talks about how “some shit went down in Iraq” in a song about the Siege of Sadr City, the first major incident of sectarian violence after the second Gulf War, while, closer to home, S Lazy H is a cowboy folk song about how developer greed has devastated farms and ranches as, to a simple acoustic guitar, Lund, himself a 6th generation rancher, wearily notes how “sometimes right isn’t equal, sometimes equal’s not fair. There will soon be rows of houses on that ridge over there, many lifetimes of labor will be all but erased, so shed a tear and look skyward, God help the S Lazy H.”
Indeed, as the album title suggests, a sense of loss permeates many of the songs, no more poignantly than on the album closer, Sunbeam, a simple acoustic ballad evocative of Willie Nelson, on which Lund, who’s also recently seen the passing of his father and grandmother, bids farewell and pays tribute to his young niece in the heart-wrenching lines “I wish you could have stayed a little longer and shone more of your sunlight in our lives…you are gone, but not forgotten, you I’ll carry with me every day, and think about the smile you smiled so often.” Adding anything else to the review seems superfluous.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via New West Records
Order Things That Can’t Be Undone via Amazon