Tuesday, February 03, 2015

My Favorite Albums of 2014

Counterfeit Blues / Corb Lund

My favorite Albertan. (I would say my favorite Canadian musician, but that would be unfair to Ron Sexsmith, Neil Young and Dan Bryk.)

I'll give my good friend Nick S. credit for turning me on to Corb Lund, although to tell you the truth he only planted a seed -- it was 2012's Cabin Fever, stumbled upon in a year-end frenzy, that really leapfrogged him into my roots-rock pantheon. Oh, hell, let's admit it, he's a country singer. And me, who grew up vowing that I hated country music -- well, let's just say I know what I like and I like this.

Though I'm tempted to focus on the haunting "Truth Comes Out,"  I'm just too in love with this track -- "Gonna Shine Up My Boots" -- to pass it up. And -- bonus points! -- the video is a total hoot.

While this album starts out with a Dylan-esque talking blues track called "Counterfeiter's Blues," note that the album itself is called Counterfeit Blues -- and I'm guessing that's because Corb Lund has too sunny a personality to do more than fake the blues.  That must be why these smarty-pants comic songs of his are so infectious. 
But really, it's a tightly crafted little song.  Our cowboy hero has such a simple agenda:  "I'm gonna shine up my boots / I'm gonna go into town / I'm gonna scrape up twenty dollars / I'm gonna throw it around."  (Love how each line of that refrain move up a triad, with the escalation of hope.)
Of course, it never stays simple. Next thing he knows, he's bought a dance, and met a girl, and in order to win her hand he's got into a card game. And when he wins, he buys a ranch, and then -- well, I won't give away the ending, but you can see where this is going. 
The repeated chorus, with its parallel phrases, helps anchor us in this shaggy-dog time-telescoping tale. (It makes me think of that wickedly wise John Mellencamp song "Love At First Sight.")  But it's worth noting that the cowboy himself is no fool -- he's the one telling us where all this is going. And in the last verse (wait for it), he resolves everything with a down-to-earth shot of wry wisdom.
This song makes me smile every time I hear it come on.  And hey, that's no small thing.


NickS said...

. . .my good friend Nick S. . . .

I'm touched.

For what it's worth, I wasn't trying to take credit for having introduced your to Corb Lund. I had merely pointed out that I could have introduced you to him had you listened to all of the music that I recommend (and I don't claim any special insight -- I'm sure that there's plenty of music that I've talked up that you wouldn't like).

It's funny -- thinking about music recommendations -- I've had a fair number of occasions when somebody's recommended an album to me. I've put it on, failed to connect with it, shrugged my shoulders and forgotten about it and then, a year or two later picked it up again and fallen in love with it. It can feel sometimes like a recommendation actually makes it harder to appreciate something (not always of course).

I think about that as one of the examples of something I find fascinating about pop music. That a 3-4 minute pop song can feel so complete and self-contained and yet it isn't. How you hear it always depends on mood, context, and what you're expecting. You have to be ready to appreciate what it is that the song is trying to do, and if you're not even the most classic pop song will fall flat.

But, I have to say, the other part of the post that I was excited to see was the mention of Dan Bryk. I'm a fan but I haven't thought about him in years. Fun to see him mentioned.

And, as for the main body of the post, "Shine Up My Boots" is one of my favorite Corb Lund songs as well (and apparently one of his first songs that got much airplay).

Holly A Hughes said...

Here's to Dan Bryk! And here's to music recommendations -- they may languish for months, years even, but eventually they do take root.