Album Review – Corb Lund’s ‘Things That Can’t Be Undone’

Corb Lund Things That Can't Be Undone

So far Canadian country artists have been delivering great record after great record in 2015. At least the ones I’ve heard and reviewed right here on the blog. Of course they have their fair share of terrible mainstream artists and many Canadian country radio stations will play some of the bad music that comes right out of here in the States. The best they have to offer though easily rank right up there with some of the best here in America and amongst them are Lindi Ortega, Whitney Rose and Dean Brody. They have all set the bar high for Canadian country this year. So in the last few weeks I was skeptical of Corb Lund being able to live up to these lofty heights. Lund has definitely emerged lately as one of the more notable country artists from up north and his new album via New West Records, Things That Can’t Be Undone, has been highly anticipated by many. Adding more hype was the news that the producer of the album would be Dave Cobb, who has been a part of some of the most critically acclaimed country projects in recent years. So I dug into this record expecting the typical sound from Lund and instead he delivers something completely different from his past albums. And you know what? It’s really good.

Things That Can’t Be Undone opens with “Weight of the Gun.” One thing you’ll notice right away with this song is the distinct change in sound for Lund, as it has a decidedly Motown influence. This isn’t a bad thing for Lund, but it might be jarring to some longtime Lund fans. The song itself is about a man’s guilt after shooting a man dead and the consequences of it. This is a song you’ll either love or hate. Put me down for the former. “Run This Town” is your classic heartbreak song where the protagonist is left wondering what could have been if the relationship had lasted. The country meets rockabilly tune “Alt Berliner Blues” sounds more like your traditional sound from Lund. There’s plenty of steel guitar and it makes for quite a catchy tune.

The slower paced “Alice Eyes” is about a man being captivated by his love’s eyes. It’s her defining feature and when he looks into him he knows he belongs with her. This song is great proof that Lund has a knack for love songs. “Sadr City” sees Lund singing about living the military life and how he never wants to go back to the scary places he has been when he was serving. Lund takes a different approach from your usual song about the military in country music, in that he sings about the fears and tragedies of serving your country. It’s a real and honest song that makes you realize the sacrifice the brave men and women who serve your country make every single day.

Lund shows off his storytelling chops with “Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues.” Lund sings about how he hasn’t sold as many records lately and the crowds at his shows have been down a little bit, so he has to go back to working in the factory. When he goes back to work at the factory, his foreman and co-workers throw it in his face and remind him of how he quit years ago and vowed to never be back there. The most humorous line is when they tell him to go paint the back fence and that since he’s an artist, that he should “be kind of sensitive about it.” By the end of the song, Lund wakes up and realizes it was all a nightmare. It makes him feel more grateful to be doing what he loves and that maybe he shouldn’t complain so much at times. This is definitely one of my favorite songs on the record.

Lund calls back to his roots with “S Lazy H.” Lund himself grew up on the ranches and this song shows how proud he was of this upbringing. But the story of the song has an unfortunate ending, as the man is forced to sell 20 sections of the ranches to make ends meet. Eventually the bank consumes the rest and the man has lost something dear to him. Once again Lund brilliantly captures the emotions of the song and the instrumentation sets the tone perfectly. The rocking “Goodbye Colorado” is your classic country leaving song. The twangy and loud guitars throughout the song are enough to make the most jaded country fan smile. Lund wrote this song with Reckless Kelly’s vocalist Willy Braun.

“Talk Too Much” is just a flat-out fun song to listen to and move your feet along with. There’s no better way to describe it. The album closes out with “Sunbeam,” a love ballad about a man who sings of his Sunbeam, the woman he loves and who he hasn’t seen in many years. He years and also vows to see her again. This bluesy country love song is a solid song to cap out a very good album.

Corb Lund’s Things That Can’t Be Undone is an album that is rooted in country and takes influences from Motown, soul, blues and pop to create something completely unlike any other album he has released. For some this is a step in the wrong direction. To me personally, I found this record to be refreshing, unique and exciting. Last year I reviewed and got my first taste of Lund’s music with his album Counterfeit Blues. And I never let on in that review how bored I was at times listening to it. But I can wholeheartedly say I enjoyed all of Things That Can’t Be Undone. With each listen it gets better and I found myself getting into it more than I expected. I certainly applaud Lund for trying something new and bold and brining on producer extraordinaire Dave Cobb, whom I can tell really helped this album stand out. Canadian country has delivered in spades this year and Lund is yet another artist from the Great White North to deliver a great record.

Grade: 9/10

 

Album Review – Cody Canada and the Departed’s HippieLovePunk

Cody Canada became a household name in the Red Dirt/Texas scene with his former band Cross Canadian Ragweed, releasing four straight top ten albums. Most bands would stick together and keep making top ten albums. Instead they parted ways and now a few years after the breakup Canada makes a return to the sound of his Cross Canadian Ragweed days with his new band The Departed. They’ve also re-added Canada’s name to the front of their name after just being called The Departed last year. This is also the return of Canada to being the sole main vocalist of his band since Seth James, who had been sharing vocal duties with Canada in The Departed, left the group. With Jeremy Plato on bass guitar, Steve Littleton on keyboards and Chris Doege on drums, does Cody Canada and the Departed deliver with their new album HippieLovePunk? Yes they do.

The album begins with “Comin To Me.” It starts with some slick electric guitar play that sets a fast pace. It’s definitely classic Canada with his brand of rock country. This is a song you can move your feet to with its infectious rhythm and pace. The piano play with the electric guitar in the bridge is phenomenal. This is followed up with “Inbetweener,” another song with a very likable southern rock sound. The song has a swagger attitude about it, giving it a nice edge. The album then slows down with “Easy.” It’s about how everyone strives to make their lives easier, whether it’s avoiding the crap on television or finding a good woman to love. Once again I like the combination of the guitar and the piano.

This is followed with “Revolution,” which has more of a punk rock feel to it, especially since the theme of it is starting a revolution to make the world a better place. It’s a rock country anthem that is pretty much guaranteed to get your head moving as your listening to it. It’s edgy, in your face and I love it. Canada and the Departed slow it down again with “Back Closer.” The song seems to be a reflective song about the band touring on the road and singing their songs; the song deals with how every night varies, where some are good and others are bad. It’s an honest and revealing look into life on the road for a band.

“Got It” is a song that doesn’t do much for me. It’s kind of boring, as the pace of the song feels uneven and there’s really nothing to sink your teeth into. The lyrics are a little puzzling and don’t do a good job of explaining what this song is about. This is definitely the weak link on the album. The band goes back to what they’re best at with “Great Big Nothin” though. It’s a fast paced foot-stomper. The song questions the integrity of society and wonders if everything is “just a lie.” Just like “Revolution” earlier in the album, this song has a punk rock attitude. The electric guitar is loud and proud in this song.

The band trades electric guitars for acoustic guitars in “Maker.” The song is about waiting on the “maker man” and how the drive for this makes you want to keep living. I’m really not sure where they’re going with the theme on this song. It’s kind of confusing. The lyrics could definitely be better. The instrumentation and Canada’s vocals are great though. “Stay” is a mid-tempo heartbreak song where the man deals with the falling out of a relationship. He never meant to bring her down and walk away, but he wonders why should they stay. Upon first listen this song may not seem like much, but I think it grows on you the more you listen to it. The instrumentation is once again flawless and works really well with the lyrics.

Without a doubt the highlight of this entire album is “Boss of Me,” a song about a man telling his woman that she isn’t the boss of him. Despite his pleas, she sounds very much to be the boss of him. The attitude is edgy, rough and aggressive. Everything in this song works brilliantly, from the lyrics to the instrumentation to the tone. It does a good job of creating the right feel for the what man is coming from in this song. The lyrics avoid painting the man to be condescending and bossy; instead it paints the picture of a man who isn’t in control, even though he likes to think he is. What else can I say: this song flat-out rocks!

The album concludes with “All Nighter,” a very sobering song about life. The song deals with how life is short and how you should live every day to the fullest. It’s quite somber, but it also offers some light too. It should be noted Canada is joined on vocals by all four Braun brothers, Willy and Cody of Reckless Kelly, along with Micky and Gary of Micky & The Motorcars. The song is dedicated to Mark McCoy, a former bassist for the Motorcars who drowned to death in Idaho a few years ago. It’s a pretty cool tribute with a nice story behind it. From an interview with Texas Monthly, Canada explains the story and meaning behind “All Nighter”:

“There was a loss in our music family that hurt pretty badly, and I wanted that person to know that we thought of him every day,” Canada explains of the collaboration. “Micky Braun passed on writing the song to me. I think it was a little too close to the chest for him. So on New Year’s Eve of 2013, I finished it. I played it a month later for [their father] Muzzy Braun up in Idaho by his wood burning stove. I noticed the stove had ‘All Nighter’ etched on the front. I had no idea. It was meant to be.”

Canada wrote the song for Mark “Gus” McCoy, the Micky and the Motorcars bassist who drowned in 2012, and says that he was inspired to write it after his wife had a conversation with Braun family patriarch, Muzzy, about how he and his wife raised their sons. “He told us to raise good kids you have to keep them close by your side,” Canada recalls. “I took that in and finished the song with a Braun in mind for each verse.” 

Right after “All Nighter” a nameless, hidden bonus track plays where it’s just Canada singing while playing an acoustic guitar. It deals with the same themes as “All Nighter” and proves Canada is just as good with slowed down, acoustic songs as he is with his normal rock country songs. I recommend hearing this song for yourself.

Cody Canada and the Departed’s HippieLovePunk is a pretty solid album for the most part. The instrumentation on this album is pretty close to perfect. The Departed should be quite proud of this. I can say the same of the vocals, with the best performance in this aspect coming on the final song “All Nighter” where Canada and the Braun brothers exceptionally express the right emotion behind their performance. Other than the final two songs, there weren’t any other “big” moments that stood out on this album to me and I was hoping for a couple more of these type of songs. Nevertheless there are very few weak moments on this album and while there weren’t a lot of big songs as I mentioned, it’s pretty damn good in all aspects. HippieLovePunk is definitely an album worth checking out, especially if you love rock country music.

Grade: 8.5/10