Corb Lund, on top of everything else, is a really sharp fella. He’s smart and tasteful enough to understand why recording in Sun Studios is a big deal. He’s got a wide enough view of music to not let the experience overwhelm him, his band or his songs.
Part of a Canadian documentary for CMT, this album finds Lund and his Hurtin’ Albertans venturing way south of the (Canadian) border to record a slew of old favorite tunes live in the venerable Memphis studio where history was made.
There’s a charm to hearing these songs live, around a few mics, but also a Jack White-ish energy to the decidedly primitive proceedings. Lund’s work has always had it’s fair share of good-natured irreverence, and this undoubtedly keeps the songs from becoming too serious or full on rockabilly retrofits. Lund’s brand of insouciance has always been closer to that of a country kid who refuses to be cowed by city life and less a snarling punk. It’s never too serious, but always sincere in it’s outlook on rural life.
“Little Foothills Heaven” comes closest to capturing the creamy rhythms of western swing and early rock, while the title track packs the heaviest, greasiest rock and roll punch of the lot. The Waylon-esque thump prevalent in Lund’s work gets converted neatly to a rough and tumble country sound tailor made for bars with chicken wire around the stage. The band plays with a studied looseness that sounds lively but not sloppy.
Most of the tracks come from Lund’s earlier albums, which is a shame because he’s got some real gems on his newer records; his range as a writer has grown to include some affecting ballads. Some of those songs might be a little too fresh though, for the sort of Neil Young reinvention he gives to “The Truth Comes Out.” If Sun Studios was the site of radical experimentation and discovery for guys like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, then maybe it’s a fitting place for a road-hardened band to rediscover and retool their old standbys.
If you wanted to give someone a good introduction to the wry rural world of Corb Lund, or just wanted to hear old favorites revamped in a fun way this is a great album to pick up. I’m not generally a fan of “Greatest Hits Live” type records but this one feels more like a worthwhile experiment than a cash grab.