Authenticity is always tricky territory in music, no more so than in country. Once upon a time, country stars came from rural backgrounds, but in the 21st century, that’s often not the case. Corb Lund is a perfect embodiment of this contradiction. The Canadian singer comes from a ranching family, but his first band took after Black Sabbath instead of Buck Owens. Years later, Lund eventually reconnected with his country roots, but he’s taken the genre into his own hands. He has two gold albums and a Juno Award (equivalent to a Grammy) to his name, building up a sizable following north of the border while befriending American country stars like Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, and Austin’s own Hayes Carll.
Yet his success has never translated in the States, which Lund attributes to the fact that his music is “too weird.” He certainly seems to share Carll’s sideways approach to country, using traditional musical means to dress up lyrical exploits that venture far from cows and rodeos. For his eighth album, Counterfeit Blues, Lund and his band recorded at the historic Sun Studios, the cramped Memphis space that launched the careers of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. Captured live in one room, the album is a raw explosion, but Lund matches that energy with funny, often poignant lyrics. On “Counterfeiters’ Blues,” he turns his sharp tongue on all sorts of “charlatans” and frauds in life, including himself. His cowboy hat no longer “smells like a horse” as he moves further away from the ranch into the spotlight. It’s authentic, but in the dictionary sense: completely truthful.