Personnel: Grant Siemens (electric guitar, lap steel guitar); Dave Cobb (nylon-string guitar, percussion); Kurt Ciesla (bass guitar); Brady Valgardson (drums); Kristen Rogers, Leroy Powell (background vocals).
Recording information: Low Country Sound, Nashville, TN; Riverdale Recorders, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Photographer: Scott Council.
Canadian country songwriter Corb Lund made a left turn on 2014's Counterfeit Blues with a twist on a greatest-hits album: He and his Hurtin' Albertans revisited catalog tracks by re-cutting them live at Sun Studio in Memphis. It was a half-rockabilly boogie and half-honky tonk stage burner. Things That Can't Be Undone is a return to new material, and a more logical extension of his Juno-winning 2012 set Cabin Fever. Working in Nashville with producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson), these ten songs combine Lund's rambling, Canadian frontier cowboy take on country with Cobb's modern sonic vision of it. Opener "Weight of the Gun" updates both Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" and Steve Earle's "Devil's Right Hand." The lyric and melody are pure country, but the musical arrangement comes straight out of the early Northern Soul playbook. The fit is seamless; the production underscores the poignancy in the lyric. "Run This Town" is a stellar, busted love song. Retro in feel, it's bathed in warm, reverbed pedal steel and lead guitar, strummed acoustics, brushed snares, and Kristen Rogers' gorgeous harmony vocals. Choogling razor-wire rockabilly drives "Alt Berliner Blues." Its metaphorical narrative takes on U.S-style capitalist expansion after the Cold War without a bit of preachiness. "Alice Eyes" is an intimate, sad love song, co-written with Austin, Texas' Jason Eady. A Beatles riff is the fuel for "Sadr City" and Cobb delivers production magic to the most devastating song on the set. Lund's words juxtapose the view of a haunted vet against a melody fueled by a jangly guitar hook, strummed and spacy pedal steel, and shuffling snare. Layers of reverb effects assert instruments at unexpected times, adding even more heft to particular lines. "Washed-Up Rock Star Factory Blues" is a darkly humorous indictment of the music business in grooving trucker honky tonk and offers a lyrical nod to David Allan Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It." The cut-time 2-step "Goodbye Colorado" sonically recalls the outlaw Nashville sound of the '70s, but that feel is offset by Lund's road-weary lyrics. "Talk Too Much" is a swaggering, snarling rockabilly blues with stinging guitars, skittering snare, a fingerpopping refrain, and an instrumental chord bridge that sounds like a mid-'60s British rave-up. The pairing of Lund and Cobb on Things That Can't Be Undone is a feather in both their caps; as an album, it forges a new path in country music, yet remains exceptionally close to the tradition's heart. ~ Thom Jurek