Corb Lund‘s Counterfeit Blues effortlessly braces gnashing guitars (the title track) with vibrant vignettes (“Truth Comes Out”).
CMT Edge recently spoke with the Canadian singer-songwriter about his early influences, the new collection and recording at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee.
“CMT in Canada wanted to do a TV special with somebody recording at Sun Studio,” Lund says. “They called us because we’re primarily a live band and we’ve had the same guys for a long time. So we went down there and had a two-evening session.”
The multiple Canadian Country Music Association award-winner carefully mined his rich roots-rock back catalog for material. Results spotlight his sharp songwriting.
CMT Edge: Describe how the new album took shape.
Lund: We recorded a bunch of old tunes, and they released the TV show, and it did really well. We only had two nights to do it, so we picked old songs that we knew the best. They’re older live favorites. It’s almost a greatest hits thing but recorded live off the floor — old-school style. They’re more raw than the original versions, which is cool.
So, it was more practical than purposeful to cut old songs and no new ones?
Yeah. We only had about eight hours for the recording time. It’d basically take eight hours to try and figure out a new song. (laughs) We just did the songs that we knew the best. It’s kind of weird, though. We’ve done several records, but in the U.S., some people might just have the most recent one called Cabin Fever. In America, probably not a lot of people would have heard these songs, so it’s almost like a new record.
Tell the story behind writing the title track.
I can’t remember, really. Most of my songs are more literal story songs, but that one’s more of just a vibe song. It started out being about counterfeit money, and it just grew from there.
How does this album represent you overall as a songwriter?
Pretty well. I mean, some of the songs are seven, eight years old, right? We’ve played this stuff over and over and over, so you kind of get immune to it, but it’s stuff I still like to do.
How did you approach the recording?
The style of the recording is pretty raw and dirty compared to the originals. We did a more clean, studio way, but it was kind of cool to leave it like that. They had it set up in one room, so you can’t isolate the instruments and do overdubs. It’s just four guys in a room. Press record and go for it.
Describe working at Sun.
They could’ve gone in there and made it very Disney and touristy, but from what I understand, it’s still very much how it was. The vibe is very much intact. There are pictures of Elvis on the wall and all that. The first hour or so was a bit heavy, but once you get set up, you just start playing.
What Sun songwriters do you draw from?
Probably Elvis more than any of them, but I’m not an Elvis maniac or anything. Jerry Lee Lewis was pretty cool, too. I have a friend [Austin songwriter] John Evans, who is really into him and can give a little more depth on Jerry Lee Lewis. I think I was pretty heavy into Elvis as a kid. Everybody was at home. It’s kind of interesting to me that they call that place the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, and you have [Johnny] Cash and Elvis and gospel there. All that music has the same roots.
Did you have to seek out that music growing up in Canada?
It was around. My mom and dad were into Elvis and old country was always around. My family’s all cowboys, so I grew up listening to Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash and all that stuff. If you live in Canada, American culture’s always there. It’s been there from the beginning, always available. It’s kind of a one-way street. (laughs) We’ll get a break.
It seems like half the time, Americans get Celine Dion and Bryan Adams and Nickelback. You never really get our good, artistic stuff, but Joni Mitchell‘s Canadian. Neil Young‘s Canadian. So, we do have other people. We have Ian Tyson, who’s one of the most respected modern cowboy singers.
No. We’ve done some shows together, but we’ve both pretty busy. We plan to, though. We’ve got this side project — Hayes and me and the guy I mentioned earlier, John Evans — called the Ego Brothers. It’s ridiculous, all these songs about how awesome we are. One of these days, we have to make that record. We have about three tunes, and we just need to hole up in a cabin and write a bunch of Ego Brothers songs.