Corb Lund is at the forefront of a Canadian country style that shares its spirit with the Texan music scene of Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, and currently folks such as Ryan Bingham and Hayes Carll: equal parts outlaw, slacker, doomsayer, rodeo clown, Larry McMurtry and Donald Barthelme.
Cabin Fever is Lund’s seventh album since 1995, and though he’s got Canadian Gold Records and a Juno award under his belt, this one, because of Lund’s dedicated touring and the support of label New West Records (home of Steve Earle, Slobberbone, DBT, Kristofferson, Yoakam, Hiatt, Austin City Limits merch, etc.), is poised to break him through to the rest of the world of people with good taste in country music.
Cabin Fever starts off with a pair of underwhelming blue-hued honky-tonk songs before it gets to something interesting, a duet with Hayes Carll called “Bible on the Dash.” I think Hayes Carll’s solo albums are the definition of underwhelming, but the two strike up a cool chemistry here, trading off verses on a good ol’ ridin’ dirty song. Then comes the genuine jewel of the album, “September.” It’s a lazy-flowing stream of remorse, a sweet plea for forgiveness, and it’s followed by another up-paced dud song about a German motorcycle. This seems to be the way I receive Corb Lund albums–there’s one great song, so great it’s a standout of the year, a state-of-grace thing, and then there’s also one funny song written with a perfectly accurate wryness. But the rest, though always better than “standard,” is only elevated for a few moments at a time when a couple of smart lyrics pass through, ultimately proving bury-able. The fun song is “Cow’s Around.” It kicks ass, like Robert Earl Keen’s “Wireless in Heaven.” If a song delivers on its light-hearted premise, you can’t fault the premise for being slightly corny, you have to admire the success. The middle of the album continues on OK, and the last couple songs do a little better, but you’re always waiting for another four minutes as compelling as “September” or “Cow’s Around.”
It’s been getting better overall with every listen, though. And I love his band’s name so much.