Things That Can’t Be Undone
Reviewed by: Bryan Culver
Chances are The Hurtin’ Albertans aren’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of country music. Here’s a little secret: I too automatically think of overly-glossed-America’-patriotism-pop that I tend to hurriedly (anxiously) skip over when frisking through the car radio. Lickety-split. So when I hunkered-down to listen to Things That Can’t be Undone, the latest full-length installment by Corb Lund, my hipster-pretension was bursting at the seams.
Okay, so that might have been a bit of an exaggeration. Let’s just say I was indifferent. My expectations were, admittedly, low.
Ten tracks later, I was in a stew when the album came to a close. It was oddly compelling. I wasn’t blown away, but pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to just sit back, close your eyes, and listen to Lund share his stories. No margaritas, no football bleachers, Sunday sermons, or blue jeans that fit just right. No, these are gritty tales of a rugged prairie horizon, they are beautiful.
So let’s try to wrastle with this thing, shall we?
In an interview with That Music Mag back in 2013, Lund lodged “I’m not a natural singer or guitar player, but I think I’m a natural songwriter.” Lund is an Albertan-born country singer. This record is a testament to his mastery of the story-telling craft. Suitably, the production on Things That Can’t Be Undone is easy as pie: woody acoustic guitars, clean Stratocaster licks, steady whip-crack drums, gently thumping bass lines. No Pro Tools shenanigans here. The backing band serves its purpose: to focus the light on Lund’s lyrical content. After your rugged journey across the Montana expanse, this record is warmly inviting you onto the ranch to unwind, have some supper, and listen to Lund’s intimate dinner-table recollections.
A few tracks stuck out to me in particular. “S Lazy H”, a tune about growing up, coming of age, and leaving home, has an uncanny resemblance to Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 classic, Nebraska. There’s a sparseness, a somberness, it’s hard to put your finger on it. On “Sadr City”, named after the Baghdad urban Iraq War battleground, Lund asks, “how many tours is too many tours my baby would like to know.” Reality is sometimes unrelentingly dismal. If country music is supposed to include themes of unfortunate circumstances, spells of bad luck, the hero’s downfall, this record certainly delivers. “Washed Up Rock-Star Factory Blues” is a comical anecdote of a musician’s post-chart-topping success, after the glory and fame subside. Like a funeral procession trailed by a parade float. There doesn’t need to be a rhyme or reason to it. Lund is just telling his side of the story as it is, tears are interspersed with laughter, as is life. Lund is renowned for his range and it is on full display on this record.
Things That Can’t Be Undone was a deeply enjoyable listen. No, I don’t think this will be the record that gets me to jump into the country genre headfirst. But I might be on a kick, who knows. I’m not suffering any after-glow, didn’t lose any brain cells. But overall, this record brought me into Lund’s satisfying sonic head-space. I’ll be back for more.