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Corb Lund on how to be a Canadian country star

Singer-songwriter and his band, the Hurtin' Albertans, perform at Whistler Presents free concert

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Somewhere in Whistler, perhaps in a dark corner of somebody's attic, lies a piece of country music Canadiana.

Alberta's Corb Lund says it connects his world of country music and the resort's world of skiing. It comes from The Boot, Whistler's late, lamented music club, which closed a decade ago.

"They called it The Boot because they had a whole bunch of ski boots on display in the rafters," Lund recalls.

There was one cowboy boot in The Boot — and it was his.

"My friend Paul, who was the manager, put my cowboy boot up there, my honorary boot. I remember really good shows there... I remember it always being really packed and really fun," he says.

Lund has had a longtime relationship with Whistler, though he hasn't performed here since the 2010 Winter Olympics.

He is visiting this time around with his band, The Hurtin' Albertans. They perform as part of the free Whistler Presents series at Whistler Olympic Plaza on Friday, Aug. 22 at 8:30 p.m. The show kicks off at 7:30 p.m. with The Matinee.

Lund has won one Juno Award; he has also won the Roots Artist or Group prize at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards eight times since 2003, so he practically owns the category.

Counterfeit Blues is Lund's latest album, recorded at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis. It was recorded very quickly — over two evenings — which must have meant two crazy nights given the album has 25 tracks.

The songs are reworked pieces from earlier in his career.

"The whole idea was to make a TV special (for the channel CMT). It wasn't supposed to be a record, you know, and we took all the familiar stuff that we know, there wasn't time to make any new stuff. We aired the show and there was the audio for it, so we made a record," Lund says.

"It's a very raw and natural sound. Country can be that way but a lot of the stuff on the radio these days is very slick. It's kind of a reaction to that.

"That style is a function of corporatism. It's the same sort of thing with rock music or urban music. Stuff on the radio is highly produced and highly focus-grouped and highly massaged."

Lund's approach to his music is well within character. Songs like Bible On the Dashboard, recorded with American country artist Hayes Carl and released in 2013, have a satirical humour, cheeky lyrics but still embrace that rich country quality.

Lund says he prefers music that is organic and spontaneous.

"It's a different goal. The consortium of businessmen who are trying be like that in music, it's a commerce thing and I'm trying to do art. Not that the other music isn't art, but the driving purpose with it is commercial," he says.

Counterfeit Blues has been doing well in terms of sales and attention, even south of the border.

"It's really weird," Lund says. "In Canada it's going to kinda come off as a live, rough greatest hits package. But in the States, our last proper record was Cabin Fever (in 2012), and it opened up a whole new audience for us... so in the U.S. they've only heard the last record or two. There's a whole bunch of really strong material that we built our careers on (in Counterfeit Blues) that Americans would never hear otherwise."

In the last month or so, Lund has had three different but interesting experiences, all stemming from the respect and affection with which he is held.

Just a week ago, he performed in a video diary for Maclean's Magazine on Aug. 13. The segment, called 'How to be a Better Canadian', saw Lund explain how to play the iconic Canuck song Four Strong Winds by Ian Tyson. Tyson, a friend, teased Lund about it.

"He liked it. I talked to him about it this morning," Lund says.

"A few years ago there was a poll of the most popular Canadian song chosen by radio listeners and it was the No. 1 song. You hear those first two chords and you know which song it is."

Also last week, Lund took part in the CBC Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, playing four songs on his family's ranch in Cardston, at the foothills of the Rockies.

And late last month the city of Edmonton held a Corb Lund Day.

What was that like?

"Strange. It was nice. I've been living there for 22 years (after moving to the city from southern Alberta) and I think it was more of a gesture due to the fact that I've built a career here, I feel like I have a relationship with the city," he says.

"You know how the Juno Awards gave Leonard Cohen something like eight Junos one year after never giving him one? I think it was like that, the subtext of appreciation."

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