We can't figure out why Corb Lund isn't better known outside of Canada. The 39-year-old Alberta native's new album, Losin' Lately Gambler, showcases his layered (and very often very wry) storytelling and his band's boot-kicking tempos. His new album is his first American label release and a chance, he sees, to bust some south-of-the-border stereotypes about Canadians.
Corb Lund comes from a long history of cattle ranchers, which informs his country songs as much as his time in a punk band.
There is a running theme of Canada throughout Lund's songs, particularly the cross-border rivalry between Alberta and Saskatchewan.
"Saskatchewan is a little like everyone's little brother. We all love Saskatchewan, but they get a lot of jokes made about them," Lund says. "Like, it's so flat that you can see your dog run away for three days."
It goes both ways. Saskatchewans call Albertans rednecks, which Lund admits is partially true. For all the jokes Lund and his fellow Albertans have made, he wrote "Long Gone to Saskatchewan," which, while humorous, is topical. As Lund tells NPR's Melissa Block, the oil and gas boom in Alberta has driven land prices high, so ranchers can't afford to raise cattle. The ranchers have sold their land and bought cheaper property in Saskatchewan, which is "just as good for cattle, but not quite as scenic."
Cattle culture runs deep throughout Alberta. Both sides of Lund's family originally come from Utah, who arrived from Denmark around the 1830s or '40s. They ranched in Utah and Nevada until they finally came north around the turn of the century. Lund calls his father a renaissance man: he took care of cattle, did pro-rodeo, did watercolors and is a veterinarian. The last of which is the subject of the song, "The Talking Veterinarian Blues."
But that's not the only song about veterinarians on Losin' Lately Gambler. "Horse Doctor, Come Quick" is about folks who use veterinarians as a means to procure narcotics, not that Lund endorses that.
"This song is actually a good example of my life in a way because a lot of my music comes from the two chunks of my life," Lund says. "The first half was cowboy and the second half I was in an indie punk band. I like to write songs where those two worlds collide."